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Full text of "The spoils of Poynton"

SPOILS OF POYNTON 



I- 



THE SPOILS OF 

POYNTON 



By the Same Author, 6s, each. 

Terminations 

Pall Mall Gazette." These four stories are so 
clever, that one can only raise one's hands in 
admiration-." 

Embarrassments 

The Times." Mr. James's stories are a con- 
tinued protest against superficial workmanship 
and slovenly style. He is an enthusiast who has 
devoted himself to keeping alive the sacred fire 
of genuine literature ; and he has his reward in 
a circle of constant admirers, whose sympathy 
encourages him to persevere." 

LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN. 



S 



THE 

FOILS OF POYNTON 



By HENRY JAMES 

AUTHOR OF 
" TERMINATIONS," " EMBARRASSMENTS " 



L 



ONDON : WILLIAM- HEINEMANN 

MDCCCXCVII 



All rights reserved. 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 



I 

MRS. GERETH had said she would go with the 
rest to church, but suddenly it seemed to her that 
she should not be able to wait even till church- 
time for relief: breakfast, at Waterbath, was a 
punctual meal, and she had still nearly an hour on 
her hands. Knowing the church to be near, she 
prepared in her room for the little rural walk, 
and on her way down again, passing through corri- 
dors and observing imbecilities of decoration, the 
aesthetic misery of the big commodious house, she 
felt a return of the tide of last night's irritation, 
a renewal of everything she could secretly suffer 
from ugliness and stupidity. Why did she consent 
to such contacts? why did she so rashly expose 
herself? She had had, heaven knew, her reasons, 
but the whole experience was to be sharper than 
she had feared. To get away from it and out into 
the air, into the presence of sky and trees, flowers 
and birds, was a necessity of every nerve. The 
flowers at Waterbath would probably go wrong in 



2 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

colour and the nightingales sing out of tune ; but 
she remembered to have heard the place described 
as possessing those advantages that are usually 
spoken of as natural. There were advantages 
enough it clearly didn't possess. It was hard for 
her to believe that a woman could look presentable 
who had been kept awake for hours by the wall- 
paper in her room; yet none the less, as in her 
fresh widow's weeds she rustled across the hall, she 
was sustained by the consciousness, which always 
added to the unction of her social Sundays, that 
she was, as usual, the only person in the house 
incapable of wearing in her preparation the horrible 
stamp of the same exceptional smartness that 
would be conspicuous in a grocer's wife. She 
would rather have perished than have looked 
endimanchee. 

She was fortunately not challenged, the hall 
being empty of the other women, who were 
engaged precisely in arraying themselves to that 
dire end. Once in the grounds, she recognised 
that, with a site, a view that struck the note, set an 
example to its inmates, Waterbath ought to have 
been charming. How she herself, with such ele- 
ments to handle, would have taken the fine hint of 
nature! Suddenly, at the turn of a walk, she 
came on a member of the party, a young lady 
seated on a bench in deep and lonely meditation. 
She had observed the girl at dinner and after- 
wards : she was always looking at girls with an 
apprehensive or speculative reference to her son. 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 3 

Deep in her heart was a conviction that Owen 
would, in spite of all her spells, marry at last a 
frump ; and this from no evidence that she could 
have represented as adequate, but simply from her 
deep uneasiness, her belief that such a special 
sensibility as her own could have been inflicted on 
a woman only as a source of anguish. It would 
be her fate, her discipline, her cross, to have a 
frump brought hideously home to her. This girl, 
one of the two Vetches, had no beauty, but Mrs. 
Gereth, scanning the dulness for a sign of life, had 
been straightway able to classify such a figure as 
the least, for the moment, of her afflictions. Fleda 
Vetch was dressed with an idea, though perhaps 
not with much else ; and that made a bond when 
there was none other, especially as in this case the 
idea was real, not imitation. Mrs. Gereth had long 
ago generalised the truth that the temperament of 
the frump is amply consistent with a certain usual 
prettiness. There were five girls in the party, and 
the prettiness of this one, slim, pale and black- 
haired, was less likely than that of the others 
ever to occasion an exchange of platitudes. The 
two less developed Brigstocks, daughters of the 
house, were in particular tiresomely " lovely." A 
second glance, a sharp one, at the young lady 
before her conveyed to Mrs. Gereth the soothing 
assurance that she also was guiltless of looking 
hot and fine. They had had no talk as yet, but 
here was a note that would effectually introduce 
them if the girl should show herself in the least 



4 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

conscious of their community. She got up from 
her seat with a smile that but partly dissipated the 
prostration Mrs. Gereth had recognised in her atti- 
tude. The elder woman drew her down again, and 
for a minute, as they sat together, their eyes met 
and sent out mutual soundings. "Are you safe? 
Can I utter it ? " each of them said to the other, 
quickly recognising, almost proclaiming, their 
common need to escape. The tremendous fancy, 
as it came to be called, that Mrs. Gereth was 
destined to take to Fleda Vetch virtually began 
with this discovery that the poor child had been 
moved to flight even more promptly than herself. 
That the poor child no less quickly perceived how 
far she could now go was proved by the immense 
friendliness with which she instantly broke out : 
" Isn't it too dreadful ? " 

" Horrible horrible ! " cried Mrs. Gereth with a 
laugh ; " and it's really a comfort to be able to say 
it." She had an idea, for it was her ambition, that 
she successfully made a secret of that awkward 
oddity her proneness to be rendered unhappy by 
the presence of the dreadful. Her passion for the 
exquisite was the cause of this, but it was a passion 
she considered that she never advertised nor gloried 
in, contenting herself with letting it regulate her 
steps and show quietly in her life, remembering at 
all times that there are few things more soundless 
than a deep devotion. She was therefore struck 
with the acuteness of the little girl who had already 
put a finger on her hidden spring. What was 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 5 

dreadful now, what was horrible, was the intimate 
ugliness ofWaterbath, and it was of that phenome- 
non these ladies talked while they sat in the shade 
and drew refreshment from the great tranquil sky, 
from which no blue saucers were suspended. It 
, was an ugliness fundamental and systematic, the 
result of the abnormal nature of the Brigstocks, 
from whose composition the principle of taste had 
been extravagantly omitted. In the arrangement 
of their home some other principle, remarkably 
active, but uncanny and obscure, had operated 
instead, with consequences depressing to behold, 
consequences that took the form of a universal 
futility. The house was bad in all conscience, 
but it might have passed if they had only let it 
alone. This saving mercy was beyond them ; 
they had smothered it with trumpery ornament 
and scrapbook art, with strange excrescences and 
bunchy draperies, with gimcracks that might have 
been keepsakes for maid-servants and nondescript 
conveniences that might have been prizes for the 
blind. They had gone wildly astray over carpets 
and curtains ; they had an infallible instinct for 
disaster, and were so cruelly doom-ridden that it 
rendered them almost tragic. Their drawing-room, 
Mrs. Gereth lowered her voice to mention, caused 
her face to burn, and each of the new friends con- 
fided to the other that in her own apartment she 
had given way to tears. There was in the elder 
lady's a set of comic water-colours, a family joke 
by a family genius, and in the younger's a souvenir 



6 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

from some centennial or other Exhibition, that 
they shudderingly alluded to. The house was 
perversely full of souvenirs of places even more 
ugly than itself and of things it would have been a 
pious duty to forget. The worst horror was the 
acres of varnish, something advertised and smelly, 
with which everything was smeared : it was Fleda 
Vetch's conviction that the application of it, by 
their own hands and hilariously shoving each other, 
was the amusement of the Brigstocks on rainy 
days. 

When, as criticism deepened, Fleda dropped the 
suggestion that some people would perhaps see 
something in Mona, Mrs. Gereth caught her up 
with a groan of protest, a smothered familiar cry 
of " Oh, my dear ! " Mona was the eldest of the 
three, the one Mrs. Gereth most suspected. She 
confided to her young friend that it was her sus- 
picion that had brought her to Waterbath ; and 
this was going very far, for on the spot, as a refuge, 
a remedy, she had clutched at the idea that some- 
thing might be done with the girl before her. It 
was her fancied exposure at any rate that had 
sharpened the shock ; made her ask herself with 
a terrible chill if fate could really be plotting to 
saddle her with a daughter-in-law brought up in 
such a place. She had seen Mona in her ap- 
propriate setting and she had seen Owen, hand- 
some and heavy, dangle beside her ; but the effect 
of these first hours had happily not been to darken 
the prospect. It was clearer to her that she could 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 7 

never accept Mona, but it was after all by no 
means certain that Owen would ask her to. He 
had sat by somebody else at dinner, and afterwards 
he had talked to Mrs. Firmin, who was as dreadful 
as all the rest, but redeemingly married. His 
heaviness, which in her need of expansion she 
freely named, had two aspects : one of them his 
monstrous lack of taste, the other his exaggerated 
prudence. If it should come to a question of 
carrying Mona with a high hand there would be 
no need to worry, for that was rarely his manner 
of proceeding. 

Invited by her companion, who had asked if it 
weren't wonderful, Mrs. Gereth had begun to say a 
word about Poynton ; but she heard a sound of 
voices that made her stop short. The next moment 
she rose to her feet, and Fled a could see that her 
alarm was by no means quenched. Behind the 
place where they had been sitting the ground 
dropped with a certain steepness, forming a long 
grassy bank, up which Owen Gereth and Mona 
Brigstock, dressed for church but making a familiar 
joke of it, were in the act of scrambling and helping 
each other. When they had reached the even 
ground Fleda was able to read the meaning of the 
exclamation in which Mrs. Gereth had expressed 
her reserves on the subject of Miss Brigstock's 
personality. Miss Brigstock had been laughing 
and even romping, but the circumstance hadn't 
contributed the ghost of an expression to her 
countenance. Tall, straight and fair, long-limbed 



8 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

and strangely festooned, she stood there without 
a look in her eye or any perceptible intention of 
any sort in any other feature. She belonged to 
the type in which speech is an unaided emission of 
sound and the secret of being is impenetrably and 
incorruptibly kept. Her expression would pro- 
bably have been beautiful if she had had one, but 
whatever she communicated she communicated, in 
a manner best known to herself, without signs. 
This was not the case with Owen Gereth, who had 
plenty of them, and all very simple and immediate. 
Robust and artless, eminently natural yet perfectly 
correct, he looked pointlessly active and pleasantly 
dull. Like his mother and like Fleda Vetch, but 
not for the same reason, this young pair had come 
out to take a turn before church. 

The meeting of the two couples was sensibly 
awkward, and Fleda, who was sagacious, took the 
measure of the shock inflicted . on Mrs. Gereth. 
There had been intimacy oh yes, intimacy as 
well as puerility in the horse-play of which they 
had just had a glimpse. The party began to stroll 
together to the house, and Fleda had again a sense 
of Mrs. Gereth's quick management in the way the 
lovers, or whatever they were, found themselves 
separated. She strolled behind with Mona, the 
mother possessing herself of her son, her exchange 
of remarks with whom, however, remained, as they 
went, suggestively inaudible. That member of the 
party in whose intenser consciousness we shall 
most profitably seek a reflection of the little drama 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 9 

with which we are concerned received an even 
livelier impression of Mrs. Gereth's intervention 
from the fact that ten minutes later, on the way to 
church, still another pairing had been effected. 
Owen walked with Fleda, and it was an amuse- 
ment to the girl to feel sure that this was by his 
mother's direction. Fleda had other amusements 
as well : such as noting that Mrs. Gereth was now 
with Mona Brigstock ; such as observing that she 
was all affability to that young woman ; such as 
reflecting that, masterful and clever, with a great 
bright spirit, she was one of those who impose 
themselves as an influence ; such as feeling finally 
that Owen Gereth was absolutely beautiful and 
delightfully dense. This young person had even 
from herself wonderful secrets of delicacy and 
pride ; but she came as near distinctness as in the 
consideration of such matters she had ever come at 
all in now surrendering herself to the idea that it 
was of a pleasant effect and rather remarkable to 
be stupid without offence of a pleasanter effect 
and more remarkable indeed than to be clever and 
horrid. Owen Gereth, at any rate, with his inches, 
his features and his lapses, was neither of these 
latter things. She herself was prepared, if she 
should ever marry, to contribute all the cleverness, 
and she liked to think that her husband would be 
a force grateful for direction. She was in her 
small way a spirit of the same family as Mrs. 
Gereth. On that flushed and huddled Sunday a 
great matter occurred ; her little life became aware 



io THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

of a singular quickening. Her meagre past fell 
away from her like a garment of the wrong fashion, 
and as she came up to town on the Monday what 
she stared at from the train in the suburban fields 
was a future full of the things she particularly 
loved. 



II 

THESE were neither more nor less than the 
things with which she had had time to learn from 
Mrs. Gereth that Poynton overflowed. Poynton, 
in the south of England, was this lady's estab- 
lished, or rather her disestablished, home : it had 
recently passed into the possession of her son. 
The father of the boy, an only child, had died 
two years before, and in London, with his mother, 
Owen was occupying for May and June a house 
good-naturedly lent them by Colonel Gereth, their 
uncle and brother-in-law. His mother had laid 
her hand so engagingly on Fleda Vetch that in a 
very few days the girl knew it was possible they 
should suffer together in Cadogan Place almost as 
much as they had suffered together at Waterbath. 
The kind soldier's house was also an ordeal, but 
the two women, for the ensuing month, had at 
least the relief of their confessions. The great 
drawback of Mrs. Gereth's situation was that, 
thanks to the rare perfection of Poynton, she was 
condemned to wince wherever she turned. She 

had lived for a quarter of a century in such warm 

ii 



12 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

closeness with the beautiful that, as she frankly 
admitted, life had become for her a kind of fool's 
paradise. She couldn't leave her own house with- 
out peril of exposure. She didn't say it in so 
many words, but Fleda could see she held that 
there was nothing in England really to compare to 
Toynton. There were places much grander and 
richer, but there was no such complete work of art, 
nothing that would appeal so to those who were 
really informed. In putting such elements into 
her hand destiny had given her an inestimable 
chance ; she knew how rarely well things had gone 
with her and that she had enjoyed an extraordinary 
fortune. 

There had been in the first place the exquisite 
old house itself, early Jacobean, supreme in every 
part : it was a provocation, an inspiration, a match- 
less canvas for the picture. Then there had been 
her husband's sympathy and generosity, his know- 
ledge and love, their perfect accord and beautiful 
life together, twenty-six years of planning and 
seeking, a long, sunny harvest of taste and 
curiosity. Lastly, she never denied, there had been 
her personal gift, the genius, the passion, the 
patience of the collector a patience, an almost 
infernal cunning, that had enabled her to do it 
all with a limited command of money. There 
wouldn't have been money enough for any one 
else, she said with pride, but there had been money 
enough for her. They had saved on lots of things 
in life, and there were lots of things they hadn't 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 13 

had, but they had had in every corner of Europe 
their swing among the Jews. It was fascinating to 
poor Fleda, who hadn't a penny in the world nor 
anything nice at home, and whose only treasure 
was her subtle mind, to hear this genuine English 
lady, fresh and fair, young in the fifties, declare 
with gaiety and conviction that she was herself 
the greatest Jew who had ever tracked a victim. 
Fleda, with her mother dead, hadn't so much even 
as a home, and her nearest chance of one was 
that there was some appearance her sister would 
become engaged to a curate whose eldest brother 
was supposed to have property and would perhaps 
allow him something. Her father paid some of 
her bills, but he didn't like her to live with him ; 
and she had lately, in Paris, with several hundred 
other young women, spent a year in a studio, 
arming herself for the battle of life by a course 
with an impressionist painter. She was deter- 
mined to work, but her impressions, or somebody's 
else, were as yet her only material. Mrs. Gereth 
had told her she liked her because she had an 
extraordinary flair; but under the circumstances 
a flair was a questionable' boon : in the dry spaces 
in which she had mainly moved she could have 
borne a chronic catarrh. She was constantly sum- 
moned to Cadogan Place and before the month 
was out was kept to stay, to pay a visit of which 
the end, it was agreed, should have nothing to do 
with the beginning. . She had a sense, partly 
exultant and partly alarmed, of having quickly 



14 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

become necessary to her imperious friend, who 
indeed gave a reason quite sufficient for it in 
telling her there was nobody else who understood. 
From Mrs. Gereth there was in these days an 
immense deal to understand, though it might be 
freely summed up in the circumstance that she was 
wretched. She told Fleda that she couldn't com- 
pletely know why till she should have seen the 
things at Poynton. Fleda could perfectly grasp 
this connection, which was exactly one of the 
matters that, in their inner mystery, were a blank 
to everybody else. 

The girl had a promise that the wonderful house 
should be shown her early in July, when Mrs. 
Gereth would return to it as to her home ; but even 
before this initiation she put her ringer on the spot 
that in the poor lady's troubled soul ached hardest. 
This was the misery that haunted her, the dread of 
the inevitable surrender. What Fleda had to sit 
up to was the confirmed appearance that Owen 
Gereth would marry Mona Brigstock, marry her 
in his mother's teeth, and that such an act would 
have incalculable bearings. They were present to 
Mrs. Gereth, her companion could see, with a 
vividness that at moments almost ceased to be 
that of sanity. She would have to give up Poyn- 
ton, and give it up to a product of Waterbath 
that was the wrong that rankled, the humiliation 
at which Fleda would be able adequately to shud- 
der only when she should know the place. She 
did know Waterbath and she despised it she had 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 15 

that qualification for sympathy. Her sympathy 
was intelligent, for she read deep into the matter : 
she stared, aghast, as it came home to her for the 
first time, at the cruel English custom of the ex- 
propriation of the lonely mother. Mr. Gereth had 
apparently been a very amiable man, but Mr. 
Gereth had left things in a way that made the girl 
marvel. The house and its contents had been 
treated as a single splendid object ; everything was 
to go straight to his son, and his widow was to have 
a maintenance and a cottage in another county. 
No account whatever had been taken of her relation 
to her treasures, of the passion with which she had 
waited for them, worked for them, picked them 
over, made them worthy of each other and the 
house, watched them, loved them, lived with them. 
He appeared to have assumed that she would settle 
questions with her son, that he could depend upon 
Owen's affection. And in truth, as poor Mrs. 
Gereth inquired, how could he possibly have had a 
prevision he who turned his eyes instinctively 
from everything repulsive of anything so abnor- 
mal as a Waterbath Brigstock ? He had been in 
ugly houses enough, but had escaped that particu- 
lar nightmare. Nothing so perverse could have 
been expected to happen as that the heir to the 
loveliest thing in England should be inspired to 
hand it over to a girl so exceptionally tainted. 
Mrs. Gereth spoke of poor Mona's taint as if to 
mention it were almost a violation of decency, and 
a person who had listened without enlightenment 



i6 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

would have wondered of what fault the girl had 
been or had indeed not been guilty. But Owen 
had from a boy never cared, had never had the 
least pride or pleasure in his home. 

" Well, then, if he doesn't care ! " Fleda ex- 
claimed with some impetuosity ; stopping short, 
however, before she completed her sentence. 

Mrs. Gereth looked at her rather hard. " If he 
doesn't care ? " 

Fleda hesitated ; she had not quite had a definite 
idea. " Well he'll give them up." 

" Give what up ? " 

" Why, those beautiful things." 

"Give them up to whom?" Mrs. Gereth more 
boldly stared. 

"To you, of course to enjoy, to keep for 
yourself." 

" And leave his house as bare as your hand ? 
There's nothing in it that isn't precious." 

Fleda considered ; her friend had taken her up 
with a smothered ferocity by which she was slightly 
disconcerted. " I don't mean of course that he 
should surrender everything ; but he might let 
you pick out the things to which you're most 
attached." 

" I think he would if he were free," said Mrs. 
Gereth. 

" And do you mean, as it is, that she'll prevent 
him ? " Mona Brigstock, between these ladies, was 
now nothing but " she." 

" By every means in her power." 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 17 

" But surely not because she understands and 
appreciates them ? " 

" No," Mrs. Gereth replied, " but because they 
belong to the house and the house belongs to 
Owen. If I should wish to take anything she 
would simply say, with that motionless mask : ' It 
goes with the house.' And day after day, in the 
face of every argument, of every consideration of 
generosity, she would repeat, without winking, in 
that voice like the squeeze of a doll's stomach : c It 
goes with the house it goes with the house.' In 
that attitude they'll shut themselves up." 

Fleda was struck, was even a little startled with 
the way Mrs. Gereth had turned this over had 
faced, if indeed only to recognise its futility, the 
notion of a battle with her only son. These words 
led her to make an inquiry which she had not 
thought it discreet to make before : she brought 
out the idea of the possibility, after all, of her 
friend's continuing to live at Poynton. Would 
they really wish to proceed to extremities ? Was 
no good-humoured, graceful compromise to be 
imagined or brought about? Couldn't the same 
roof cover them ? Was it so very inconceivable 
that a married son should, for the rest of her days, 
share with so charming a mother the home she 
had devoted more than a score of years to making 
beautiful for him ? Mrs. Gereth hailed this ques- 
tion with a wan, compassionate smile : she replied 
that a common household, in such a case, was 
exactly so inconceivable that Fleda had only to 



i8 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

glance over the fair face of the English land to see 
how few people had ever conceived it. It was 
always thought a wonder, a " mistake," a piece of 
overstrained sentiment ; and she confessed that she 
was as little capable of a flight of that sort as 
Owen himself. Even if they both had been capable 
they would still have Mona's hatred to reckon 
with. Fleda's breath was sometimes taken away 
by the great bounds and elisions which, on Mrs. 
Gereth's lips, the course of discussion could take. 
This was the first she had heard of Mona's 
hatred, though she certainly had not needed Mrs. 
Gereth to tell her that in close quarters that young 
lady would prove secretly mulish. Later Fleda 
perceived indeed that perhaps almost any girl 
would hate a person who should be so markedly 
averse to having anything to do with her. Before 
this, however, in conversation with her young 
friend, Mrs. Gereth furnished a more vivid motive 
for her despair by asking how she could possibly 
be expected to sit there with the new proprietors 
and accept or call it, for a day, endure the 
horrors they would perpetrate in the house. Fleda 
reasoned that they wouldn't after all smash things 
nor burn them up; and Mrs. Gereth admitted 
when pushed that she didn't quite suppose they 
would. What she meant was that they would 
neglect them, ignore them, leave them to clumsy 
servants (there wasn't an object of them all but 
should be handled with perfect love), and in many 
cases probably wish to replace them by pieces 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 19 

answerable to some vulgar modern notion of the 
convenient. Above all she saw in advance with 
dilated eyes the abominations they would inevit- 
ably mix up with them the maddening relics of 
Waterbath, the little brackets and pink vases, the 
sweepings of bazaars, the family photographs and 
illuminated texts, the " household art " and house- 
hold piety of Mona's hideous home. Wasn't it 
enough simply to contend that Mona would ap- 
proach Poynton in the spirit of a Brigstock and 
that in the spirit of a Brigstock she would deal 
with her acquisition ? Did Fleda really see her, 
Mrs. Gereth demanded, spending the remainder of 
her days with such a creature's elbow in her eye ? 

Fleda had to declare that she certainly didn't 
and that Waterbath had been a warning it would 
be frivolous to overlook. At the same time she 
privately reflected that they were taking a great 
deal for granted and that, inasmuch as to her 
knowledge Owen Gereth had positively denied his 
betrothal, the ground of their speculations was by 
no means firm. It seemed to our young lady that 
in a difficult position Owen conducted himself 
with some natural art ; treating this domesticated 
confidant of his mother's wrongs with a simple 
civility that almost troubled her conscience, so 
deeply she felt that she might have had for him the 
air of siding with that lady against him. She 
wondered if he would ever know how little really 
she did this and that she was there, since Mrs. 
Gereth had insisted, not to betray but essentially 



20 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

to confirm and protect. The fact that his mother 
disliked Mona Brigstock might have made him 
dislike the object of her preference, and it was 
detestable to Fleda to remember that she might 
have appeared to him to offer herself as an exem- 
plary contrast. It was clear enough, however, that 
the happy youth had no more sense for a motive 
than a deaf man for a tune ; a limitation by which, 
after all, she could gain as well as lose. He came 
and went very freely on the business with which 
London abundantly furnished him, but he found 
time more than once to say to her, " It's awfully 
nice of you to look after poor Mummy." As well 
as his quick speech, which shyness made obscure 
it was usually as desperate as a " rush " at some 
violent game his child's eyes in his man's face 
put it to her that, you know, this really meant a 
good deal for him and that he hoped she would 
stay on. With a person in the house who, like 
herself, was clever, poor Mummy was conveni- 
ently occupied ; and Fleda found a beauty in the 
candour and even in the modesty which apparently 
kept him from suspecting that two such wiseheads 
could possibly be occupied with Owen Gereth. 



Ill 



THEY went at last, the wiseheads, down to 
Poynton, where the palpitating girl had the full 
revelation. "Now do you know how I feel?" 
Mrs. Gereth asked when in the wonderful hall, 
three minutes after their arrival, her pretty associ- 
ate dropped on a seat with a soft gasp and a roll 
of dilated eyes. The answer came clearly enough, 
and in the rapture of that first walk through the 
house Fleda took a prodigious span. She perfectly 
understood how Mrs. Gereth felt she had under- 
stood but meagrely before ; and the two women 
embraced with tears over the tightening of their 
bond tears which on the younger one's part were 
the natural and usual sign of her submission to 
perfect beauty. It was not the first time she had 
cried for the joy of admiration, but it was the first 
time the mistress of Poynton, often as she had 
shown her house, had been present at such an 
exhibition. She exulted in it ; it quickened her 
own tears ; she assured her companion that such 
an occasion made the poor old place fresh to her 

again and more precious than ever. Yes, nobody 

21 



22 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

had ever, that way, felt what she had achieved : 
people were so grossly ignorant, and everybody, 
even the knowing ones, as they thought themselves, 
more or less dense. What Mrs. Gereth had achieved 
was indeed an exquisite work ; and in such an art 
of the treasure-hunter, in selection and comparison 
refined to that point, there was an element of 
creation, of personality. She had commended 
Fleda's flair> and Fleda now gave herself up to 
satiety. Preoccupations and scruples fell away 
from her ; she had never known a greater happiness 
than the week she passed in this initiation. 

Wandering through clear chambers where the 
general effect made preferences almost as impossible 
as if they had been shocks, pausing at open doors 
where vistas were long and bland, she would, even 
if she had not already known, have discovered for 
herself that Poynton was the record of a life. It 
was written in great syllables of colour and form, 
the tongues of other countries and the hands of 
rare artists. It was all France and Italy, with 
their ages composed to rest. For England you 
looked out of old windows it was England that 
was the wide embrace. While outside, on the low 
terraces, she contradicted gardeners and refined on 
nature, Mrs. Gereth left her guest to finger fondly 
the brasses that Louis Quinze might have thumbed, 
to sit with Venetian velvets just held in a loving 
palm, to hang over cases of enamels and pass and 
repass before cabinets. There were not many 
pictures the panels and the stuffs were themselves 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 23 

the picture ; and in all the great wainscoted house 
there was not an inch of pasted paper. What 
struck Fleda most in it was the high pride of her 
friend's taste, a fine arrogance, a sense of style 
which, however amused and amusing, never com- 
promised nor stooped. She felt indeed, as this 
lady had intimated to her that she would, both a 
respect and a compassion that she had not known 
before ; the vision of the coming surrender filled 
her with an equal pain. To give it all up, to 
die to it that thought ached in her breast. She 
herself could imagine clinging there with a close- 
ness separate from dignity. To have created such 
a place was to have had dignity enough ; when 
there was a question of defending it the fiercest 
attitude was the right one. After so intense a 
taking of possession she too was to give it up ; for 
she reflected that if Mrs. Gereth's remaining there 
would have offered her a sort of future stretching 
away in safe years on the other side of a gulf the 
advent of the others could only be, by the same law, 
a great vague menace, the ruffling of a still water. 
Such were the emotions of a hungry girl whose 
sensibility was almost as great as her opportunities 
for comparison had been small. The museums had 
done something for her, but nature had done more. 
If Owen had not come down with them nor 
joined them later, it was because he still found 
London jolly ; yet the question remained of 
whether the jollity of London was not merely the 
only name his small vocabulary yielded for the 



24 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

jollity of Mona Brigstock. There was indeed in 
his conduct another ambiguity something that 
required explaining so long as his motive didn't 
come to the surface. If he was in love what was 
the matter ? And what was the matter still more 
if he wasn't? The mystery was at last cleared 
up : this Fleda gathered from the tone in which, 
one morning at breakfast, a letter just opened 
made Mrs. Gereth cry out. Her dismay was 
almost a shriek : " Why, he's bringing her down 
he wants her to see the house ! " They flew, 
the two women, into each other's arms and, with 
their heads together, soon made out that the 
reason, the baffling reason why nothing had yet 
happened, was that Mona didn't know, or Owen 
didn't, whether Poynton would really please her. 
She was coming down to judge ; and could any- 
thing in the world be more like poor Owen than 
the ponderous probity which had kept him from 
pressing her for a reply till she should have 
learned whether she approved what he had to 
offer her? That was a scruple it had naturally 
been impossible to impute. If only they might 
fondly hope, Mrs. Gereth wailed, that the girl's 
expectations would be dashed ! There was a fine 
consistency, a sincerity quite affecting, in her 
arguing that the better the place should happen 
to look and to express the conceptions to which 
it owed its origin, the less it would speak to an 
intelligence so primitive. How could a Brigstock 
possibly understand what it was all about ? How, 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 25 

really, could a Brigstock logically do anything but 
hate it ? Mrs. Gereth, even as she whisked away 
linen shrouds, persuaded herself of the possibility 
on Mona's part of some bewildered blankness, 
some collapse of admiration that would prove dis- 
concerting to her swain a hope of which Fleda 
at least could see the absurdity and which gave 
the measure of the poor lady's strange, almost 
maniacal disposition to thrust in everywhere the 
question of "things," to read all behaviour in the 
light of some fancied relation to them. " Things " 
were of course the sum of the world ; only, for 
Mrs. Gereth, the sum of the world was rare 
French furniture and oriental china. She could 
at a stretch imagine people's not having, but she 
couldn't imagine their not wanting and not missing. 
The young couple were to be accompanied by 
Mrs. Brigstock, and with a prevision of how fiercely 
they would be watched Fleda became conscious, 
before the party arrived, of an amused, diplomatic 
pity for them. Almost as much as Mrs. Gereth's 
her taste was her life, but her life was somehow 
the larger for it. Besides, she had another care 
now : there was some one she wouldn't have liked 
to see humiliated even in the form of a young lady 
who would contribute to his never suspecting so 
much delicacy. When this young lady appeared 
Fleda tried, so far as the wish to efface herself 
allowed, to be mainly the person to take her about, 
show her the house and cover up her ignorance. 
Owen's announcement had been that, as trains 



26 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

made it convenient, they would present themselves 
for luncheon and depart before dinner ; but Mrs. 
Gereth, true to her system of glaring civility, 
proposed and obtained an extension, a dining and 
spending of the night. She made her young 
friend wonder against what rebellion of fact she 
was sacrificing in advance so profusely to form. 
Fleda was appalled after the first hour by the rash 
innocence with which Mona had accepted the 
responsibility of observation, and indeed by the 
large levity with which, sitting there like a bored 
tourist in fine scenery, she exercised it. She felt 
in her nerves the effect of such a manner on her 
companion's, and it was this that made her want 
to entice the girl away, give her some merciful 
warning or some jocular cue. Mona met intense 
looks, however, with eyes that might have been 
blue beads, the only ones she had eyes into 
which Fleda thought it strange Owen Gereth 
should have to plunge for his fate and his mother 
for a confession of whether Poynton was a success. 
She made no remark that helped to supply this 
light ; her impression at any rate had nothing in 
common with the feeling that, as the beauty of the 
place throbbed out like music, had caused Fleda 
Vetch to burst into tears. She was as content to 
say nothing as if, Mrs. Gereth afterwards ex- 
claimed, she had been keeping her mouth shut in 
a railway-tunnel. Mrs. Gereth contrived at the 
end of an hour to convey to Fleda that it was 
plain she was brutally ignorant ; but Fleda more 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 27 

finely discovered that her ignorance was obscurely 
active. 

She was not so stupid as not to see that some- 
thing, though she scarcely knew what, was ex- 
pected of her that she couldn't give ; and the only 
mode her intelligence suggested of meeting the 
expectation was to plant her big feet and pull 
another way. Mrs. Gereth wanted her to rise, 
somehow or somewhere, and was prepared to hate 
her if she didn't : very well, she couldn't, she 
wouldn't rise ; she already moved at the altitude 
that suited her, and was able to see that since she 
was exposed to the hatred she might at least 
enjoy the calm. The smallest trouble, for a girl 
with no nonsense about her, was to earn what she 
incurred ; so that, a dim instinct teaching her she 
would earn it best by not being effusive, and com- 
bining with the conviction that she now held Owen, 
and therefore the place, she had the pleasure of 
her honesty as well as of her security. Didn't 
her very honesty lead her to be belligerently blank 
about Poynton, inasmuch as it was just Poynton 
that was forced upon her as a subject for effusive- 
ness? Such subjects, to Mona Brigstock, had an 
air almost of indecency, and the house became 
uncanny to her through such an appeal an appeal 
that, somewhere in the twilight of her being, as 
Fleda was sure, she thanked heaven she was the 
girl stiffly to draw back from. She was a person 
whom pressure at a given point infallibly caused 
to expand in the wrong place instead of, as it is 



28 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

usually administered in the hope of doing, the 
right one. Her mother, to make up for this, broke 
out universally, pronounced everything "most 
striking," and was visibly happy that Owen's captor 
should be so far on the way to strike : but she 
jarred upon Mrs. Gereth by her formula of admira- 
tion, which was that anything she looked at was 
"in the style" of something else. This was to 
show how much she had seen, but it only showed 
she had seen nothing ; everything at Poynton was 
in the style of Poynton, and poor Mrs. Brigstock, 
who at least was determined to rise and had 
brought with her a trophy of her journey, a " lady's 
magazine" purchased at the station, a horrible 
thing with patterns for antimacassars, which, as it 
was quite new, the first number, and seemed so 
clever, she kindly offered to leave for the house, 
was in the style of a vulgar old woman who wore 
silver jewelry and tried to pass off a gross avidity 
as a sense of the beautiful. 

By the day's end it was clear to Fleda Vetch 
that, however Mona judged, the day had been 
determinant. Whether or no she felt the charm 
she felt the challenge : at an early moment Owen 
Gereth would be able to tell his mother the worst. 
Nevertheless when the elder lady, at bedtime, 
coming in a dressing-gown and a high fever to 
the younger one's room, cried out, " She hates 
it ; but what will she do ? " Fleda pretended 
vagueness, played at obscurity and assented dis- 
ingenuously to the proposition that they at least 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 29 

had a respite. The future was dark to her, but there 
was a silken thread she could clutch in the gloom 
she would never give Owen away. He might 
give himself he even certainly would ; but that 
was his own affair, and his blunders, his innocence 
only added to the appeal he made to her. She 
would cover him, she would protect him, and 
beyond thinking her a cheerful inmate he would 
never guess her intention, any more than, beyond 
thinking her clever enough for anything, his acute 
mother would discover it. From this hour, with 
Mrs. Gereth, there was a flaw in her frankness. 
Her admirable friend continued to know everything 
she did ; what was to remain unknown was the 
general motive. 

From the window of her room, the next morn- 
ing before breakfast, the girl saw Owen in the 
garden with Mona, who strolled beside him with 
a listening parasol but without a visible look for 
the great florid picture that had been hung there 
by Mrs. Gereth's hand. Mona kept dropping her 
eyes, as she walked, to catch the sheen of her 
patent-leather shoes, which resembled a man's and 
which she kicked forward a little it gave her an 
odd movement to help her see what she thought 
of them. When Fleda came down Mrs. Gereth 
was in the breakfast-room ; and at that moment 
Owen, through a long window, passed in alone 
from the terrace and very endearingly kissed his 
mother. It immediately struck the girl that she 
was in their way, for hadn't he been borne on a 



30 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

wave of joy exactly to announce, before the Brig- 
stocks departed, that Mona had at last faltered 
out the sweet word he had been waiting for? He 
shook hands with his friendly violence, but Fleda 
contrived not to look into his face : what she liked 
most to see in it was not the reflection of Mona's 
big boot-toes. She could bear well enough that 
young lady herself, but she couldn't bear Owen's 
opinion of her. She was on -the point of slipping 
into the garden when the movement was checked 
by Mrs. Gereth's suddenly drawing her close, as 
if for the morning embrace, and then, while she 
kept her there with the bravery of the night's 
repose, breaking out : " Well, my dear boy, what 
does your young friend there make of our odds and 
ends?" 

" Oh, she thinks they're all right ! " 

Fleda immediately guessed from his tone that 
he had not come in to say what she supposed ; 
there was even something in it to confirm Mrs. 
Gereth's belief that their danger had dropped. 
She was sure, moreover, that his tribute to Mona's 
taste was a repetition of the eloquent words in 
which the girl had herself recorded it ; she could 
indeed hear, with all vividness, the pretty passage 
between the pair. "Don't you think it's rather 
jolly, the old shop?" "Oh, it's all right!" Mona 
had graciously remarked : and then they had 
probably, with a slap on a back, run another race 
up or down a green bank. Fleda knew Mrs. 
Gereth had not yet uttered a word to her son that 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 31 

would have shown him how much she feared ; but 
it was impossible to feel her friend's arm round her 
and not become aware that this friend was now 
throbbing with a strange intention. Owen's reply 
had scarcely been of a nature to usher in a dis- 
cussion of Mona's sensibilities ; but Mrs. Gereth 
went on, in a moment, with an innocence of which 
Fleda could measure the cold hypocrisy : " Has 
she any sort of feeling for nice old things ? " The 
question was as fresh as the morning light. 

" Oh, of course she likes everything that's nice." 
And Owen, who constitutionally disliked questions 
an answer was almost as hateful to him as a 
" trick " to a big dog smiled kindly at Fleda and 
conveyed that she would understand what he 
meant even if his mother didn't. Fleda, however, 
mainly understood that Mrs. Gereth, with an odd, 
wild laugh, held her so hard that she hurt her. 

" I could give up everything without a pang, I 
think, to a person I could trust, I could respect." 
The girl heard her voice tremble under the effort 
to show nothing but what she wanted to show, and 
felt the sincerity of her implication that the piety 
most real to her was to be on one's knees before 
one's high standard. "The best things here, as 
you know, are the things your father and I col- 
lected, things all that we worked for and waited 
for and suffered for. Yes," cried Mrs. Gereth, with 
a fine freedom of fancy, " there are things in the 
house that we almost starved for ! They were our 
religion, they were our life, they were us! And 



32 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

now they're only me except that they're also you, 
thank God, a little, you dear ! " she continued, 
suddenly inflicting on Fleda a kiss apparently 
intended to knock her into position. " There isn't 
one of them I don't know and love yes, as one 
remembers and cherishes the happiest moments of 
one's life. Blindfold, in the dark, with the brush 
of a finger, I could tell one from another. They're 
living things to me ; they know me, they return 
the touch of my hand. But I could let them 
all go, since I have to, so strangely, to another 
affection, another conscience. There's a care they 
want, there's a sympathy that draws out their 
beauty. Rather than make them over to a woman 
ignorant and vulgar, I think I'd deface them with 
my own hands. Can't you see me, Fleda, and 
wouldn't you do it yourself?" she appealed to 
her companion with glittering eyes. " I couldn't 
bear the thought of such a woman here I couldn't. 
I don't know what she'd do ; she'd be sure to 
invent some devilry, if it should be only to bring 
in her own little belongings and horrors. The 
world is full of cheap gimcracks, in this awful age, 
and they're thrust in at one at every turn. They'd 
be thrust in here, on top of my treasures, my own. 
Who would save them for me I ask you who 
would?" and she turned again to Fleda with a 
dry, strained smile. Her handsome, high-nosed, 
excited face might have been that of Don Quixote 
tilting at a windmill. Drawn into the eddy of 
this outpouring, the girl, scared and embarrassed, 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 33 

laughed off her exposure ; but only to feel herself 
more passionately caught up and, as it seemed to 
her, thrust down the fine open mouth (it showed 
such perfect teeth) with which poor Owen's slow 
cerebration gaped. " You would, of course only 
you, in all the world, because you know, you feel, 
as I do myself, what's good and true and pure." 
No severity of the moral law could have taken a 
higher tone in this implication of the young lady 
who had not the only virtue Mrs. Gereth actively 
esteemed. " You would replace me, you would 
watch over them, you would keep the place right," 
she austerely pursued, "and with you here yes, 
with you, I believe I might rest, at last, in my 
grave ! " She threw herself on Fleda's neck, and 
before Fleda, horribly shamed, could shake her 
off, had burst into tears which couldn't have been 
explained, but which might perhaps have been 
understood. 



IV 

A WEEK later Owen Gereth came down to in- 
form his mother that he had settled with Mona 
Brigstock ; but it was not at all a joy to Fleda, 
aware of how much to himself it would be a sur- 
prise, that he should find her still in the house. 
That dreadful scene before breakfast had made 
her position false and odious ; it had been followed, 
after they were left alone, by a scene of her own 
making with her extravagant friend. She notified 
Mrs. Gereth of her instant departure : she couldn't 
possibly remain after being offered to Owen that 
way, before her very face, as his mother's candidate 
for the honour of his hand. That was all he could 
have seen in such an outbreak and in the indecency 
of her standing there to enjoy it. Fleda had on 
the prior occasion dashed out of the room by the 
shortest course and in her confusion had fallen 
upon Mona in the garden. She had taken an 
aimless turn with her, and they had had some talk, 
rendered at first difficult and almost disagreeable 
by Mona's apparent suspicion that she had been 
sent out to spy, as Mrs. Gereth had tried to spy, 

34 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 35 

into her opinions. Fleda was sagacious enough to 
treat these opinions as a mystery almost awful ; 
which had an effect so much more than reassuring 
that at the end of five minutes the young lady 
from Waterbath suddenly and perversely said : 
" Why has she never had a winter garden thrown 
out? If ever I have a place of my own I mean 
to have one." Fleda, dismayed, could see the 
thing something glazed and piped, on iron pillars, 
with untidy plants and cane sofas ; a shiny excre- 
scence on the noble face of Poynton. She remem- 
bered at Waterbath a conservatory where she had 
caught a bad cold in the company of a stuffed 
cockatoo fastened to a tropical bough and a water- 
less fountain composed of shells stuck into some 
hardened paste. She asked Mona if her idea would 
be to make something like this conservatory ; to 
which Mona replied : " Oh no, much finer ; we 
haven't got a winter garden at Waterbath." Fleda 
wondered if she meant to convey that it was the 
only grandeur they lacked, and in a moment Mona 
went on : " But we have got a billiard-room that 
I will say for us ! " There was no billiard-room at 
Poynton, but there would evidently be one, and it 
would have, hung on its walls, framed at the 
"Stores," caricature-portraits of celebrities taken 
from a " society paper." 

When the two girls had gone in to breakfast it 
was for Fleda to see at a glance that there had 
been a further passage, of some high colour, between 
Owen and his mother ; and she had turned pale in 



36 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

guessing to what extremity, at her expense, Mrs. 
Gereth had found occasion to proceed. Hadn't 
she, after her clumsy flight, been pressed upon 
Owen in still clearer terms? Mrs. Gereth would 
practically have said to him : " If you'll take her, 
I'll move away without a sound. But if you take 
any one else, any one I'm not sure of as I am of 
her heaven help me, I'll fight to the death!" 
Breakfast, this morning, at Poynton, had been a 
meal singularly silent, in spite of the vague little 
cries with which Mrs. Brigstock turned up the 
underside of plates and the knowing but alarming 
raps administered by her big knuckles to porcelain 
cups. Some one had to respond to her, and the 
duty assigned itself to Fleda, who, while pretending 
to meet her on the ground of explanation, wondered 
what Owen thought of a girl still indelicately 
anxious, after she had been grossly hurled at him, 
to prove by exhibitions of her fine taste that she 
was really what his mother pretended. This time, 
at any rate, their fate was sealed : Owen, as soon 
as he should get out of the house, would describe 
to Mona that lady's extraordinary conduct, and if 
anything more had been wanted to " fetch " Mona, 
as he would call it, the deficiency was now made 
up. Mrs. Gereth in fact took care of that took 
care of it by the way, at the last, on the threshold, 
she said to the younger of her departing guests, 
with an irony of which the sting was wholly in the 
sense, not at all in the sound : " We haven't had 
the talk we might have had, have we ? You'll feel 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 37 

that I've neglected you, and you'll treasure it up 
against me. Don't, because really, you know, it 
has been quite an accident, and I've all sorts of 
information at your disposal. If you should come 
down again (only you won't, ever I feel that !) 
I should give you plenty of time to worry it out 
of me. Indeed there are some things I should 
quite insist on your learning ; not permit you at 
all, in any settled way, not to learn. Yes indeed, 
you'd put me through, and I should put you, my 
dear ! We should have each other to reckon with, 
and you would see me as I really am. I'm not a 
bit the vague, mooning, easy creature I dare say 
you think. However, if you won't come, you won't; 
n'en parlous plus. It is stupid here after what 
you're accustomed to. We can only, all round, do 
what we can, eh? For heaven's sake, don't let 
your mother forget her precious publication, the 
female magazine, with the what-do-you-call-'em ? 
the grease-catchers. There ! " 

Mrs. Gereth, delivering herself from the doorstep, 
had tossed the periodical higher in air than was 
absolutely needful tossed it toward the carnage 
the retreating party was about to enter. Mona, 
from the force of habit, the reflex action of the 
custom of sport, had popped out, with a little 
spring, a long arm and intercepted the missile as 
easily as she would have caused a tennis-ball to 
rebound from a racket. " Good catch ! " Owen 
had cried, so genuinely pleased that practically 
no notice was taken of his mother's impressive 



38 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

remarks. It was to the accompaniment of romp- 
ing laughter, as Mrs. Gereth afterwards said, that 
the carriage had rolled away ; but it was while that 
laughter was still in the air that Fleda Vetch, white 
and terrible, had turned upon her hostess with her 
scorching " How could you? Great God, how could 
you ? " This lady's perfect blankness was from the 
first a sign of her serene conscience ; and the fact 
that till indoctrinated she didn't even know what 
Fleda meant by resenting her late offence to every 
susceptibility, gave our young woman a sore, scared 
perception that her own value in the house was 
the mere value, as one might say, of a good agent. 
Mrs. Gereth was generously sorry, but she was still 
more surprised surprised at Fleda's not having 
liked to be shown off to Owen as the right sort of 
wife for him. Why not, in the name of wonder, 
if she absolutely was the right sort? She had 
admitted on explanation that she could see what 
her young friend- meant by having been laid, as 
Fleda called it, at his feet ; but it struck the girl 
that the admission was only made to please her 
and that Mrs. Gereth was secretly surprised at her 
not being as happy to be sacrificed to the supre- 
macy of a high standard as she was happy to 
sacrifice her. She had taken a tremendous fancy 
to her, but that was on account of the fancy to 
Poynton of course Fleda herself had taken. 
Wasn't this latter fancy then so great after all? 
Fleda felt that she could declare it to be great 
indeed when really for the sake of it she could 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 39 

forgive what she had suffered and, after reproaches 
and ears, asseverations and kisses, after learning 
that she was cared for only as a priestess of the 
altar and a view of her bruised dignity which left 
no alternative to flight, could accept the shame 
with the balm, consent not to depart, take refuge 
in the thin comfort of at least knowing the truth. 
The truth was simply that all Mrs. Gereth's scruples 
were on one side and that her ruling passion had 
in a manner despoiled her of her humanity. On 
the second day, after the tide of emotion had some- 
what ebbed, she said soothingly to her companion : 
" But you would, after all, marry him, you know, 
darling, wouldn't you, if that girl were not there? 
I mean of course if he were to ask you," Mrs. 
Gereth had thoughtfully added. 

"Marry him if he were to ask me? Most 
distinctly not ! " 

The question had not come up with this definite- 
ness before, and Mrs. Gereth was clearly more 
surprised than ever. She marvelled a moment. 
" Not even to have Poynton ? " 

" Not even to have Poynton." 

" But why on earth ? " Mrs. Gereth's sad eyes 
were fixed on her. 

Fleda coloured ; she hesitated. " Because he's 
too stupid ! " Save on one other occasion, at 
which we shall in time arrive, little as the reader 
may believe it, she never came nearer to betraying 
to Mrs. Gereth that she was in love with Owen. 
She found a dim amusement in reflecting that if 



40 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

Mona had not been there and he had not been too 
stupid and he verily had asked her, she might, 
should she have wished to keep her secret, have 
found it possible to pass off the motive of her 
action as a mere passion for Poynton. 

Mrs. Gereth evidently thought in these days of 
little but things hymeneal ; for she broke out with 
sudden rapture in the middle of the week : " I 
know what they'll do : they will marry, but they'll 
go and live at Waterbath ! " There was positive 
joy in that form of the idea, which she embroidered 
and developed : it seemed so much the safest thing 
that could happen. " Yes, I'll have you, but I 
won't go there!" Mona would have said with a 
vicious nod at the southern horizon : " we'll leave 
your horrid mother alone there for life." It would 
be an ideal solution, this ingress the lively pair, 
with their spiritual need of a warmer medium, 
would playfully punch in the ribs of her ancestral 
home ; for it would not only prevent recurring 
panic at Poynton it would offer them, as in one 
of their gimcrack baskets or other vessels of ugli- 
ness, a definite daily felicity that Poynton could 
never give. Owen might manage his estate just as 
he managed it now, and Mrs. Gereth would manage 
everything else. When in the hall, on the un- 
forgettable day of his return, she had heard his 
voice ring out like a call to a terrier, she had still, 
as Fleda afterwards learned, clutched frantically at 
the conceit that he had come, at the worst, to 
announce some compromise ; to tell her she would 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 41 

have to put up with the girl, yes, but that some 
way would be arrived at of leaving her in personal 
possession. Fleda Vetch, whom from the earliest 
hour no illusion had brushed with its wing, now 
held her breath, went on tiptoe, wandered in out- 
lying parts of the house and through delicate, 
muffled rooms while the mother and son faced 
each other below. From time to time she stopped 
to listen ; but all was so quiet she was almost 
frightened : she had vaguely expected a sound of 
contention. It lasted longer than she would have 
supposed, whatever it was they were doing ; and 
when finally, from a window, she saw Owen stroll 
out of the house, stop and light a cigarette and 
then pensively lose himself in the plantations, she 
found other matter for trepidation in the fact that 
Mrs. Gereth didn't immediately come rushing up 
into her arms. She wondered whether she oughtn't 
to go down to her, and measured the gravity of 
what had occurred by the circumstance, which she 
presently ascertained, that the poor lady had retired 
to her room and wished not to be disturbed. This 
admonition had been for her maid, with whom 
Fleda conferred as at the door of a death-chamber ; 
but the girl, without either fatuity or resentment, 
judged that, since it could render Mrs. Gereth in- 
different even to the ministrations of disinterested 
attachment, the scene had been tremendous. 

She was absent from luncheon, where indeed 
Fleda had enough to do to look Owen in the face : 
there would be so much to make that hateful in 



42 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

their common memory of the passage in which 
his last visit had terminated. This had been her 
apprehension at least ; but as soon as he stood 
there she was constrained to wonder at the prac- 
tical simplicity of the ordeal a simplicity which 
was really just his own simplicity, the particular 
thing that, for Fleda Vetch, some other things of 
course aiding, made almost any direct relation 
with him pleasant. He had neither wit, nor tact, 
nor inspiration: all she could say was that when 
they were together the alienation these charms 
were usually depended on to allay didn't occur. 
On this occasion, for instance, he did so much 
better than " carry off" an awkward remembrance : 
he simply didn't have it. He had clean forgotten 
that she was the girl his mother would have 
fobbed off on him; he was conscious only that 
she was there in a manner for service conscious 
of the dumb instinct that from the first had made 
him regard her not as complicating his inter- 
course with that personage, but as simplifying 
it. Fleda found beautiful that this theory should 
have survived the incident of the other day ; found 
exquisite that whereas she was conscious, through 
faint reverberations, that for her kind little circle 
at large, whom it didn't concern, her tendency had 
begun to define itself as parasitical, this strong 
young man, who had a right to judge and even 
a reason to loathe her, didn't judge and didn't 
loathe, let her down gently, treated her as if she 
pleased him, and in fact evidently liked her to 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 43 

be just where she was. She asked herself what 
he did when Mona denounced her, and the only 
answer to the question was that perhaps Mona 
didn't denounce her. If Mona was inarticulate 
he wasn't such a fool, then, to marry her. That 
he was glad Fleda was there was at any rate 
sufficiently shown by the domestic familiarity with 
which he said to her: " I must tell you I've been 
having an awful row with my mother. I'm engaged 
to be married to Miss Brigstock." 

" Ah, really ? " cried Fleda, achieving a radiance 
of which she was secretly proud. " How very 
exciting ! " 

" Too exciting for poor Mummy. She won't 
hear of it. She has been slating her fearfully. 
She says she's a 'barbarian.'" 

" Why, she's lovely ! " Fleda exclaimed. 

" Oh, she's all right. Mother must come round." 

" Only give her time," said Fleda. She had 
advanced to the threshold of the door thus thrown 
open to her and, without exactly crossing it, she 
threw in an appreciative glance. She asked Owen 
when his marriage would take place, and in the 
light of his reply read that Mrs. Gereth's wretched 
attitude would have no influence at all on the 
event, absolutely fixed when he came down and 
distant by only three months. He liked Fleda's 
seeming to be on his side, though that was a 
secondary matter ; for what really most concerned 
him now was the line his mother took about Poyn- 
ton, her declared unwillingness to give it up. 



44 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

" Naturally I want my own house, you know," 
he said, " and my father made every arrangement 
for me to have it. But she may make it devilish 
awkward. What in the world's a fellow to do?" 
This it was that Owen wanted to know, and there 
could be no better proof of his friendliness than 
his air of depending on Fleda Vetch to tell him. 
She questioned him, they spent an hour together, 
and, as he gave her the scale of the concussion 
from which he had rebounded, she found herself 
saddened and frightened by the material he 
seemed to offer her to deal with. It was devilish 
awkward, and it was so in part because Owen 
had no imagination. It had lodged itself in that 
empty chamber that his mother hated the sur- 
render because she hated Mona. He didn't of 
course understand why she hated Mona, but this 
belonged to an order of mysteries that never 
troubled him : there were lots of things, especially 
in people's minds, that a fellow didn't understand. 
Poor Owen went through life with a frank dread 
of people's minds : there were explanations he 
would have been almost as shy of receiving as 
of giving. There was therefore nothing that 
accounted for anything, though in its way it was 
vivid enough, in his picture to Fleda of his 
mother's virtual refusal to move. That was simply 
what it was; for didn't she refuse to move when 
she as good as declared that she would move 
only with the furniture? It was the furniture 
he wouldn't give up; and what was the good 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 45 

of Poynton without the furniture ? Besides, the 
furniture happened to be his, just as everything 
else happened to be. The furniture the word, 
on his lips, had somehow, for Fleda, the sound 
of washing-stands and copious bedding, and she 
could well imagine the note it might have struck 
for Mrs. Gereth. The girl, in this interview with 
him, spoke of the contents of the house only as 
"the works of art." It didn't, however, in the 
least matter to Owen what they were called; 
what did matter, she easily guessed, was that it 
had been laid upon him by Mona, been made 
in effect a condition of her consent, that he 
should hold his mother to the strictest accounta- 
bility for them. Mona had already entered upon 
the enjoyment of her rights. She had made him 
feel that Mrs. Gereth had been liberally provided 
for, and had asked him cogently what room there 
would be at Ricks for the innumerable treasures 
of the big house. Ricks, the sweet little place 
offered to the mistress of Poynton as the refuge 
of her declining years, had been left to the late 
Mr. Gereth a considerable time before his death 
by an old maternal aunt, a good lady who had 
spent most of her life there. The house had in 
recent times been let, but it was amply furnished, 
it contained all the defunct aunt's possessions. 
Owen had lately inspected it, and he communi- 
cated to Fleda that he had quietly taken Mona 
to see it. It wasn't a place like Poynton what 
dower-house ever was? but it was an awfully 



46 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

jolly little place, and Mona had taken a tremen- 
dous fancy to it. If there were a few things at 
Poynton that were Mrs. Gereth's peculiar pro- 
perty, of course she must take them away with 
her ; but one of the matters that became clear to 
Fleda was that this transfer would be immedi- 
ately subject to Miss Brigstock's approval. The 
special business that she herself now became 
aware of being charged with was that of seeing 
Mrs. Gereth safely and singly off the premises. 

Her heart failed her, after Owen had returned 
to London, with the ugliness of this duty with 
the ugliness indeed of the whole close conflict. 
She saw nothing of Mrs. Gereth that day ; she 
spent it in roaming with sick sighs, in feeling, as 
she passed from room to room, that what was 
expected of her companion was really dreadful. 
It would have been better never to have had 
such a place than to have had it and lose it. It 
was odious to her to have to look for solutions : 
what a strange relation between mother and son 
when there was no fundamental tenderness out 
of which a solution would irrepressibly spring ! 
Was it Owen who was mainly responsible for 
that poverty ? Fleda couldn't think so when she 
remembered that, so far as he was concerned, 
Mrs. Gereth would still have been welcome to keep 
her seat by the Poynton fire. The fact that from 
the moment one accepted his marrying one saw 
no very different course for Owen to take this 
fact made her all the rest of that aching day find 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 47 

her best relief in the mercy of not having yet to 
face her hostess. She dodged and dreamed and 
romanced away the time. Instead of inventing a 
remedy or a compromise, instead of preparing a 
plan by which a scandal might be averted, she 
gave herself, in her sentient solitude, up to a 
mere fairy-tale, up to the very taste of the beau- 
tiful peace with which she would have filled the 
air if only something might have been that could 
never have been. 



" I'LL give up the house if they'll let me take 
what I require ! " that, on the morrow, was what 
Mrs. Gereth's stifled night had qualifed her to 
say with a tragic face at breakfast. Fleda re- 
flected that what she " required " was simply 
every object that surrounded them. The poor 
woman would have admitted this truth and ac- 
cepted the conclusion to be drawn from it, the 
reduction to the absurd of her attitude, the exalt- 
ation of her revolt. The girl's dread of a scan- 
dal, of spectators and critics, diminished the more 
she saw how little vulgar avidity had to do with 
this rigour. It was not the crude love of posses- 
sion ; it was the need to be faithful to a trust and 
loyal to an idea. The idea was surely noble ; it 
was that of the beauty Mrs. Gereth had so 
patiently and consummately wrought. Pale but 
radiant, her back to the wall, she rose there like 
a heroine guarding a treasure. To give up the 
ship was to flinch from her duty ; there was 
something in her eyes that declared she would 

die at her post. If their difference should become 

48 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 49 

public the shame would be all for the others. 
If Waterbath thought it could afford to expose 
itself, then Waterbath was welcome to the folly. 
Her fanaticism gave her a new distinction, and 
Fleda perceived almost with awe that she had 
never carried herself so well. She trod the place 
like a reigning queen or a proud usurper; full 
as it was of splendid pieces it could show in these 
days no ornament so effective as its menaced 
mistress. 

Our young lady's spirit was strangely divided ; 
she had a tenderness for Owen which she deeply 
concealed, yet it left her occasion to marvel at 
the way a man was made who could care in any 
relation for a creature like Mona Brigstock when 
he had known in any relation a creature like 
Adela Gereth. With such a mother to give him 
the pitch how could he take it so low? She 
wondered that she didn't despise him for this, 
but there was something that kept her from it. 
If there had been nothing else it would have 
sufficed that she really found herself from this 
moment the medium of communication with him. 

"He'll come -back to assert himself," Mrs. 
Gereth had said ; and the following week Owen 
in fact re-appeared. He might merely have writ- 
ten, Fleda could see, but he had come in person 
because it was at once " nicer " for . his . mother 
and stronger for his cause. He didn't .like the 
row, though Mona probably did ; if he hadn't 
a sense of beauty he had after all a sense of 

E 



50 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

justice; but it was inevitable he should clearly 
announce at Poynton the date at which he must 
look to find the house vacant. " You don't think 
I'm rough or hard, do you ? " he asked of Fleda, 
his impatience shining in his idle eyes as the 
dining-hour shines in club-windows. " The place 
at Ricks stands there with open arms. And 
then I give her lots of time. Tell her she can 
remove everything that belongs to her." Fleda 
recognised the elements of what the newspapers 
call a deadlock in the circumstance that nothing 
at Poynton belonged to Mrs. Gereth either more 
or less than anything else. She must either take 
everything or nothing, and the girl's suggestion 
was that it might perhaps be an inspiration to 
do the latter and begin again on a clean page. 
What, however, was the poor woman in that case 
to begin with? What was she to do at all on 
her meagre income but make the best of the 
objets d'art of Ricks, the treasures collected by 
Mr. Gereth's maiden-aunt? She had never been 
near the place : for long years it had been let to 
strangers, and after that the foreboding that it 
would be her doom had kept her from the abase- 
ment of it. She had felt that she should see it 
soon enough, but Fleda (who was careful not to 
betray to her that Mona had seen it and had 
been gratified) knew her reasons for believing 
that the maiden-aunt's principles had had much 
in common with the principles of Waterbath. 
The only thing, in short, that she would ever 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 51 

have to do with the objets (Tart of Ricks would 
be to turn them out into the road. What be- 
longed to her at Poynton, as Owen said, would 
conveniently mitigate the void resulting from that 
demonstration. 

The exchange of observations between the 
friends had grown very direct by the time Fleda 
asked Mrs. Gereth whether she literally meant 
to shut herself up and stand a siege, or whether 
it was her idea to expose herself, more informally, 
to be dragged out of the house by constables. 
"Oh, I prefer the constables and the dragging!" 
the heroine of Poynton had answered. " I want 
to make Owen and Mona do everything that will 
be most publicly odious." She gave it out that 
it was her one thought now to force them to a 
line that would dishonour them and dishonour 
the tradition they embodied, though Fleda was 
privately sure that she had visions of an alternative 
policy. The strange thing was that, proud and 
fastidious all her life, she now showed so little 
distaste for the world's hearing of the squabble. 
What had taken place in her above all was that 
a long resentment had ripened. She hated the 
effacement to which English usage reduced the 
widowed mother ; she had discoursed of it pas- 
sionately to Fleda ; contrasted it with the beautiful 
homage paid in other countries to women in that 
position, women no better than herself, whom she 
had seen acclaimed and enthroned, whom she had 
known and envied ; made in short as little as 



52 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

possible a secret of the injury, the bitterness she 
found in it. The great wrong Owen had done her 
was not his "taking up" with Mona that was 
disgusting, but it was a detail, an accidental form ; 
it was his failure from the first to understand what 
it was to have a mother at all, to appreciate the 
beauty and sanctity of the character. She was 
just his mother as his nose was just his nose, and 
he had never had the least imagination or tender- 
ness or gallantry about her. One's mother, gracious 
heaven, if one were the kind of fine young man 
one ought to be, the only kind Mrs. Gereth cared 
for, was a subject for poetry, for idolatry. Hadn't 
she often told Fleda of her friend Madame de 
Jaume, the wittiest of women, but a small, black 
crooked person, each of whose three boys, when 
absent, wrote to her every day of their lives ? She 
had the house in Paris, she had the house in 
Poitou, she had more than in the lifetime of her 
husband (to whom, in spite of her appearance, she 
had afforded repeated cause for jealousy), because 
she had to the end of her days the supreme word 
about everything. It was easy to see that Mrs. 
Gereth would have given again and again her 
complexion, her figure, and even perhaps the 
spotless virtue she had still more successfully 
retained, to have been the consecrated Madame 
de Jaume. She wasn't, alas, and this was what 
she had at present a magnificent occasion to 
protest against. She was of course fully aware 
of Owen's concession, his willingness to let her 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 53 

take away with her the few things she liked best ; 
but as yet she only declared that to meet him on 
this ground would be to give him a triumph, to 
put him impossibly in the right. " Liked best ? " 
There wasn't a thing in the house that she didn't 
like best, and what she liked better still was to be 
left where she was. How could Owen use such 
an expression without being conscious of his 
hypocrisy? Mrs. Gereth, whose criticism was often 
gay, dilated with sardonic humour on the happy 
look a dozen objects from Poynton would wear 
and the charming effect they would conduce to 
when interspersed with the peculiar features of 
Ricks. What had her whole life been but an 
effort toward completeness and perfection ? Better 
Waterbath at once, in its cynical unity, than the 
ignominy of such a mixture ! 

All this was of no great help to Fleda, in so far 
as Fleda tried to rise to her mission of rinding a 
way out. When at the end of a fortnight Owen 
came down once more, it was ostensibly to tackle 
a farmer whose proceedings had been irregular; 
the girl was sure, however, that he had really 
come, on the instance of Mona, to see what his 
mother was doing. He wished to satisfy himself 
that she was preparing her departure, and he 
wished to perform a duty, distinct but not less 
imperative, in regard to the question of the per- 
quisites with which she would retreat. The tension 
between them was now such that he had to 
perpetrate these offences without meeting his 



54 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

adversary. Mrs. Gereth was as willing as himself 
that he should address to Fleda Vetch whatever 
cruel remarks he might have to make; she only 
pitied her poor young friend for repeated en- 
counters with a person as to whom she perfectly 
understood the girl's repulsion. Fleda thought it 
nice of Owen not to have expected her to write 
to him; he wouldn't have wished any more than 
herself that she should have the air of spying on 
his mother in his interest. What made it comfort- 
able to deal with him in this more familiar way 
was the sense that she understood so perfectly how 
poor Mrs. Gereth suffered, and that she measured 
so adequately the sacrifice the other side did take 
rather monstrously for granted. She understood 
equally how Owen himself suffered, now that 
Mona had already begun to make him do things 
he didn't like. Vividly Fleda apprehended how 
she would have first made him like anything she 
would have made him do; anything even as dis- 
agreeable as this appearing there to state, virtually 
on Mona's behalf, that of course there must be a 
definite limit to the number of articles appro- 
priated. She took a longish stroll with him in 
order to talk the matter over ; to say if she didn't 
think a dozen pieces, chosen absolutely at will, 
would be a handsome allowance ; and above all to 
consider the very delicate question of whether the 
advantage enjoyed by Mrs. Gereth mightn't be left 
to her honour. To leave it so was what Owen 
wished ; but there was plainly a young lady at 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 55 

Waterbath to whom, on his side, he already had 
to render an account. He was as touching in his 
off-hand annoyance as his mother was tragic- in her 
intensity ; for if he couldn't help having a sense of 
propriety about the whole matter, so he could as 
little help hating it. It was for his hating it, Fleda 
reasoned, that she liked him so, and her insistence 
to his mother on the hatred perilously resembled 
on one or two occasions a revelation of the liking. 
There were moments when, in conscience, that 
revelation pressed her; inasmuch as it was just on 
the ground of her not liking him that Mrs. Gereth 
trusted her so much. Mrs. Gereth herself didn't in 
these days like him at all, and she was of course 
and always on Mrs. Gereth's side. He ended 
really, while the preparations for his marriage went 
on, by quite a little custom of coming and going ; 
but at no one of these junctures would his mother 
receive him. He talked only with Fleda and 
strolled with Fleda; and when he asked her, in 
regard to the great matter, if Mrs. Gereth were 
really doing nothing, the girl usually replied : " She 
pretends not to be, if I may say so ; but I think 
she's really thinking over what she'll take." When 
her friend asked her what Owen was doing she 
could have but one answer : " He's waiting, dear 
lady, to see what you do ! " 

Mrs. Gereth, a month after she had received her 
great shock, did something abrupt and extra- 
ordinary : she caught up her companion and went 
to have a look at Ricks. They had come to 



56 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

London first and taken a train from Liverpool 
Street, and the least of the sufferings they were 
armed against was that of passing the night. 
Fleda's admirable dressing-bag had been given her 
by her friend. " Why, it's charming ! " she ex- 
claimed a few hours later, turning back again into 
the small prim parlour from a friendly advance to 
the single plate of the window. Mrs. Gereth hated 
such windows, the one flat glass, sliding up and 
down, especially when they enjoyed a view of four 
iron pots on pedestals, painted white and con- 
taining ugly geraniums, ranged on the edge of a 
gravel-path and doing their best to give it the air 
of a terrace. Fleda had instantly averted her 
eyes from these ornaments, but Mrs. Gereth grimly 
gazed, wondering of course how a place in the 
deepest depths of Essex and three miles from a 
small station could contrive to look so suburban. 
The room was practically a shallow box, with the 
junction of the walls and ceiling guiltless of curve 
or cornice and marked merely by the little band 
of crimson paper glued round the top of the other 
paper, a turbid grey sprigged with silver flowers. 
This decoration was rather new and quite fresh ; 
and there was in the centre of the ceiling a big 
square beam papered over in white, as to which 
Fleda hesitated about venturing to remark that it 
was rather picturesque. She recognised in time 
that this remark would be weak and that, through- 
out, she should be able to say nothing either for 
the mantelpieces or for the doors, of which she 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 57 

saw her companion become sensible with a sound- 
less moan. On the subject of doors especially 
Mrs. Gereth had the finest views : the thing in 
the world she most despised was the meanness of 
the single flap. From end to end, at Poynton, 
there were high double leaves. At Ricks the 
entrances to the rooms were like the holes of 
rabbit-hutches. 

It was all, none the less, not so bad as Fleda had 
feared ; it was faded and melancholy, whereas 
there had been a danger that it would be contra- 
dictious and positive, cheerful and loud. The 
house was crowded with objects of which the 
aggregation somehow made a thinness and the 
futility a grace ; things that told her they had been 
gathered as slowly and as lovingly as the golden 
flowers of Poynton. She too, for a home, could 
have lived with them : they made her fond of the 
old maiden-aunt ; they made her even wonder if it 
didn't work more for happiness not to have tasted, 
as she herself had done, of knowledge. Without 
resources, without a stick, as she said, of her own, 
Fleda was moved, after all, to some secret surprise 
at the pretensions of a shipwrecked woman who 
could hold such an asylum cheap. The more she 
looked about the surer she felt of the character 
of the maiden-aunt, the sense of whose dim pre- 
sence urged her to pacification : the maiden-aunt 
had been a dear; she would have adored the 
maiden-aunt. The poor lady had had some tender 
little story ; she had been sensitive and ignorant 



58 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

and exquisite : that too was a sort of origin, a 
sort of atmosphere for relics and rarities, though 
different from the sorts most prized at Poynton. 
Mrs. Gereth had of course more than once said 
that one of the deepest mysteries of life was the 
way that, by certain natures, hideous objects could 
be loved. But it wasn't a question of love, now, 
for these ; it was only a question of a certain 
practical patience. Perhaps some thought of that 
kind had stolen over Mrs. Gereth when, at the end 
of a brooding hour, she exclaimed, taking in the 
house with a strenuous sigh : " Well, something 
can be done with it ! " Fleda had repeated to her 
more than once the indulgent fancy about the 
maiden-aunt she was so sure she had deeply suf- 
fered. " I'm sure I hope she did ! " was, however, 
all that Mrs. Gereth had replied. 



VI 

IT was a great relief to the girl at last to per- 
ceive that the dreadful move would really be 
made. What might happen if it shouldn't had 
been from the first indefinite. It was absurd to 
pretend that any violence was probable a tussle, 
dishevelment, shrieks ; yet Fleda had an imagin- 
ation of a drama, a " great scene," a thing, some- 
how, of indignity and misery, of wounds inflicted 
and received, in which indeed, though Mrs. Gereth's 
presence, with movements and sounds, loomed 
large to her, Owen remained indistinct and on the 
whole unaggressive. He wouldn't be there with 
a cigarette in his teeth, very handsome and inso- 
lently quiet : that was only the way he would be 
in a novel, across whose interesting page some 
such figure, as she half closed her eyes, seemed to 
her to walk. Fleda had rather, and indeed with 
shame, a confused, pitying vision of Mrs. Gereth 
with her great scene left in a manner on her hands, 
Mrs. Gereth missing her effect and having to 
appear merely hot and injured and in the wrong. 
The symptoms that she would be spared even 

59 



6o THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

that spectacle resided not so much, through the 
chambers of Poynton, in an air of concentration as 
in the hum of buzzing alternatives. There was 
no common preparation, but one day, at the turn 
of a corridor, she found her hostess standing very 
still, with the hanging hands of an invalid and the 
active eyes of an adventurer. These eyes appeared 
to Fleda to meet her own with a strange, dim 
bravado, and there was a silence, almost awkward, 
before either of the friends spoke. The girl after- 
wards thought of the moment as one in which 
her hostess mutely accused her of an accusation, 
meeting it, however, at the same time, by a kind 
of defiant acceptance. Yet it was with mere 
melancholy candour that Mrs. Gereth at last 
sighingly exclaimed : " I'm thinking over what I 
had better take ! " Fleda could have embraced 
her for this virtual promise of a concession, the 
announcement that she had finally accepted the 
problem of knocking together a shelter with the 
small salvage of the wreck. 

It was true that when after their return from 
Ricks they tried to lighten the ship the great 
embarrassment was still immutably there, the 
odiousness of sacrificing the exquisite things one 
wouldn't take to the exquisite things one would. 
This immediately made the things one wouldn't 
take the very things one ought to, and, as Mrs. 
Gereth said, condemned one, in the whole business, 
to an eternal vicious circle. In such a circle, for 
days, she had been tormentedly moving, prowling 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 61 

up and down, comparing incomparables. It was 
for that one had to cling to them and their faces 
of supplication. Fleda herself could judge of 
these faces, so conscious of their race and their 
danger, and she had little enough to say when her 
companion asked her if the whole place, perversely 
fair on October afternoons, looked like a place to 
give up. It looked, to begin with, through some 
effect of season and light, larger than ever, im- 
mense, and it was filled with the hush of sorrow, 
which in turn was all charged with memories. 
Everything was in the air every history of every 
find, every circumstance of every struggle. Mrs. 
Gereth had drawn back every curtain and removed 
every cover ; she prolonged the vistas, opened 
wide the whole house, gave it an appearance of 
awaiting a royal visit. The shimmer of wrought 
substances spent itself in the brightness ; the old 
golds and brasses, old ivories and bronzes, the 
fresh old tapestries and deep old damasks threw 
out a radiance in which the poor woman saw in 
solution all her old loves and patiences, all her old 
tricks and triumphs. 

Fleda had a depressed sense of not, after all, 
helping her much : this was lightened indeed by 
the fact that Mrs. Gereth, letting her off easily, 
didn't now seem to expect it. Her sympathy, her 
interest, her feeling for everything for which Mrs. 
Gereth felt, were a force that really worked to pro- 
long the deadlock. " I only wish I bored you and 
my possessions bored you," that lady, with some 



62 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

humour, declared ; " then you'd make short work 
with me, bundle me off, tell me just to pile certain 
things into a cart and have done." Fleda's sharpest 
difficulty was in having to act up to the character 
of thinking Owen a brute, or at least to carry off 
the inconsistency of seeing him when he came 
down. By good fortune it was her duty, her func- 
tion, as well as a protection to Mrs. Gereth. She 
thought of him perpetually, and her eyes had come 
to rejoice in his manly magnificence more even 
than they rejoiced in the royal cabinets of the red 
saloon. She wondered, very faintly at first, why he 
came so often ; but of course she knew nothing 
about the business he had in hand, over which, with 
men red-faced and leather-legged, he was sometimes 
closeted for an hour in a room of his own that was 
the one monstrosity of Poynton : all tobacco-pots 
and bootjacks, his mother had said such an array 
of arms of aggression and castigation that he him- 
self had confessed to eighteen rifles and forty whips. 
He was arranging for settlements on his wife, he 
was doing things that would meet the views of the 
Brigstocks. Considering the house was his own, 
Fleda thought it nice of him to keep himself in the 
background while his mother remained ; making 
his visits, at some cost of ingenuity about trains 
from town, only between meals, doing everything 
to let it press lightly upon her that he was there. 
This was rather a stoppage to her meeting Mrs. 
Gereth on the ground of his being a brute ; the 
most she really at last could do was not to con- 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 63 

tradict her when she repeated that he was watching 
just insultingly watching. He was watching, no 
doubt ; but he watched somehow with his head 
turned away. He knew that Fleda knew at present 
what he wanted of her, so that it would be gross 
of him to say it over and over. It existed as a 
confidence between them and made him some- 
times, with his wandering stare, meet her eyes as 
if a silence so pleasant could only unite them the 
more. He had no great flow of speech, certainly, 
and at first the girl took for granted that this was 
all there was to be said about the matter. Little 
by little she speculated as to whether, with a person 
who, like herself, could put him, after all, at a sort 
of domestic ease, it was not supposable that he 
would have more conversation if he were not keep- 
ing some of it back for Mona. 

From the moment she suspected he might be 
thinking what Mona would say to his chattering 
so to an underhand " companion," an inmate all but 
paid, this young lady's repressed emotion began 
to require still more repression. She grew impa- 
tient of her situation at Poyton ; she privately 
pronounced it false and horrid. She said to her- 
self that she had let Owen know that she had, to 
the best of her power, directed his mother in the 
general sense he desired ; that he quite understood 
it and that he also understood how unworthy it was 
of either of them to stand over the good lady with 
a notebook and a lash. Wasn't this practical 
unanimity just practical success? Fleda became 



64 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

aware of a sudden desire, as well as of pressing 
reasons, to bring her stay at Poynton to a close. 
She had not, on the one hand, like a minion of the 
law, undertaken to see Mrs. Gereth down to the 
train and locked, in sign of her abdication, into a 
compartment ; neither had she on the other com- 
mitted herself to hold Owen indefinitely in dalliance 
while his mother gained time or dug a counter- 
mine. Besides, people were saying that she fastened 
like a leech on other people people who had 
houses where Something was to be picked up : this 
revelation was frankly made her by her sister, now 
distinctly doomed to the curate and in view of 
whose nuptials she had almost finished, as a pre- 
sent, a wonderful piece of embroidery, suggested, 
at Poynton, by an old Spanish altar-cloth. She 
would have to exert herself still further for the 
intended recipient of this offering, turn her out for 
her marriage with more than that drapery. She 
would go up to town, in short, to dress Maggie; 
and their father, in lodgings at West Kensington, 
would stretch a point and take them in. He, to 
do him justice, never reproached her with profitable 
devotions ; so far as they existed he consciously 
profited by them. Mrs. Gereth gave her up as 
heroically as if she had been a great bargain, and 
Fleda knew that she wouldn't at present miss any 
visit of Owen's, for Owen was shooting at Water- 
bath. Owen shooting was Owen lost, and there 
was scant sport at Poynton. 

The first news she had from Mrs. Gereth was 



TH SPOILS OF POYNTON 6$ 

news of that lady's having accomplished, in form 
at least, her migration. The letter was dated from 
Ricks, to which place she had been transported by 
an impulse apparently as sudden as the inspiration 
she had obeyed before. " Yes, I've literally come," 
she wrote, " with a bandbox and a kitchen-maid ; 
I've crossed the Rubicon, I've taken possession. 
It has been like plumping into cold water. I saw 
the only thing was to do it, not to stand shivering. 
I shall have warmed the place a little by simply 
being here for a week ; when I come back the ice 
will have been broken. I didn't write to you to 
meet me on my way through town, because I know 
how busy you are and because, besides, I'm too 
savage and odious to be fit company even for 
you. You'd say I really go too far, and there's no 
doubt whatever I do. I'm here, at any rate, just to 
look round once more, to see that certain things are 
done before I enter in force. I shall probably be 
at Poynton all next week. There's more room 
than I quite measured the other day, and a rather 
good set of old Worcester. But what are space 
and time, what's even old Worcester, to your 
wretched and affectionate A. G. ? " 

The day after Fleda received this letter she had 
occasion to go into a big shop in Oxford Street a 
journey that she achieved circuitously, first on foot 
and then by the aid of two omnibuses. The second 
of these vehicles put her down on the side of the 
street opposite her shop, and while, on the curb- 
stone, she humbly waited, with a parcel, an umbrella 



66 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

and a tucked-up frock, to cross in security, she 
became aware that, close beside her, a hansom had 
pulled up short, in obedience to the brandished 
stick of a demonstrative occupant. This occupant 
was Owen Gereth, who had caught sight of her as 
he rattled along and who, with an exhibition of 
white teeth that, from under the hood of the cab, 
had almost flashed through the fog, now alighted to 
ask her if he couldn't give her a lift. On finding 
that her destination was just over the way he dis- 
missed his vehicle and joined her, not only piloting 
her to the shop, but taking her in ; with the assur- 
ance that his errands didn't matter, that it amused 
him to be concerned with hers. She told him she 
had come to buy a trimming for her sister's frock, 
and he expressed an hilarious interest in the pur- 
chase. His hilarity was almost always out of pro- 
portion to the case, but it struck her at present as 
more so than ever ; especially when she had sug- 
gested that he might find it a good time to buy a 
garnishment of some sort for Mona. After won- 
dering an instant whether he gave the full satiric 
meaning, such as it was, to this remark, Fleda 
dismissed the possibility as inconceivable. He 
stammered out that it was for her he would like to 
buy something, something " ripping," and that she 
must give him the pleasure of telling him what 
would best please her. He couldn't have a better 
opportunity for making her a present the present, 
in recognition of all she had done for Mummy 
that he had had in his head for weeks. 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 67 

Fleda had more than one small errand in the 
big bazaar, and he went up and down with her, 
pointedly patient, pretending to be interested in 
questions of tape and of change. She had now 
not the least hesitation in wondering what Mona 
would think of such proceedings. But they were 
not her doing they were Owen's ; and Owen, 
inconsequent and even extravagant, was unlike 
anything she had ever seen him before. He broke 
off, he came back, he repeated questions without 
heeding answers, he made vague abrupt remarks 
about the resemblances of shopgirls and the uses 
of chiffon. He unduly prolonged their business 
together, giving Fleda a sense that he was putting 
off something particular that he had to face. If 
she had ever dreamed of Owen Gereth as nervous 
she would have seen him with some such manner 
as this. But why should he be nervous? Even 
at the height of the crisis his mother hadn't made 
him so, and at present he was satisfied about his 
mother. The one idea he stuck to was that Fleda 
should mention something she would let him give 
her : there was everything in the world in the 
wonderful place, and he made her incongruous 
offers a travelling-rug, a massive clock, a table 
for breakfast in bed, and above all, in a resplendent 
binding, a set of somebody's " works." His notion 
was a testimonial, a tribute, and the "works" 
would be a graceful intimation that it was her 
cleverness he wished above all to commemorate. 
He was immensely in earnest, but the articles he 



68 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

pressed upon her betrayed a delicacy that went to 
her heart : what he would really have liked, as he 
saw them tumbled about, was one of the splendid 
stuffs for a gown a choice proscribed by his fear 
of seeming to patronize her, to refer to her small 
means and her deficiencies. Fleda found it easy 
to chaff him about his exaggeration of her deserts ; 
she gave the just measure of them in consenting 
to accept a small pin-cushion, costing sixpence, in 
which the letter F was marked out with pins. A 
sense of loyalty to Mona was not needed to enforce 
this discretion, and after that first allusion to her 
she never sounded her name. She noticed on this 
occasion more things in Owen Gereth than she had 
ever noticed before, but what she noticed most was, 
that he said no word of his intended. She asked 
herself what he had done, in so long a parenthesis, 
with his loyalty or at least his " form " ; and then 
reflected that even if he had done something very 
good with them the situation in which such a 
question could come up was already a little 
strange. Of course he wasn't doing anything so 
vulgar as to make loye to her ; but there was a 
kind of punctilio for a man who was engaged. 

That punctilio didn't prevent Owen from re- 
maining with her after they had left the shop, from 
hoping she had a lot more to do, and from pressing 
her to look with him, for a possible glimpse of 
something she might really let him give her, into 
the windows of other establishments. There was 
a moment when, under this pressure, she made up 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 69 

her mind that hrs tribute would be, if analysed, a 
tribute to her insignificance. But all the same he 
wanted her to come somewhere and have luncheon 
with him : what was that a tribute to ? She must 
have counted very little if she didn't count too 
much for a romp in a restaurant. She had to get 
home with her trimming, and the most, in his 
company, she was amenable to was a retracing of 
her steps to the Marble Arch and then, after a 
discussion when they had reached it, a walk with 
him across the Park. She knew Mona would have 
considered that she ought to take the omnibus 
again ; but she had now to think for Owen as well 
as for herself she couldn't think for Mona. Even 
'in the Park the autumn air was thick, and as they 
moved westward over the grass, which was what 
Owen preferred, the cool grey ness made their 
words soft, made them at last rare and everything 
else dim. He wanted to stay with her he wanted 
not to leave her : he had dropped into complete 
silence, but that was what his silence said. What 
was it he had postponed ? What was it he wanted 
still to postpone ? She grew a little scared as they 
strolled together and she thought. It was too 
confused to be believed, but it was as if somehow 
he felt differently. Fleda Vetch didn't suspect 
him at first of feeling differently to her, but only 
of feeling differently to Mona ; yet she was not 
unconscious that this latter difference would have 
had something to do with his being on the grass 
beside her. She had read in novels about gentle- 



70 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

men who on the eve of marriage, winding up the 
past, had surrendered themselves for the occasion 
to the influence of a former tie ; and there was 
something in Owen's behaviour now, something in 
his very face, that suggested a resemblance to one 
of those gentlemen. But whom and what, in that 
case, would Fleda herself resemble ? She wasn't a 
former tie, she wasn't any tie at all ; she was only 
a deep little person for whom happiness was a 
kind of pearl-diving plunge. It was down at the 
very bottom of all that had lately occurred ; for 
all that had lately occurred was that Owen Gereth 
had come and gone at Poynton. That was the 
small sum of her experience, and what it had 
made for her was her own affair, quite consistent 
with her not having dreamed it had made a tie 
at least what she called one for Owen. The old 
one, at any rate, was Mona Mona whom he had 
known so very much longer. 

They walked far, to the south-west corner of the 
great Gardens, where, by the old round pond and 
the old red palace, when she had put out her hand 
to him in farewell, declaring that from the gate 
she must positively take a conveyance, it seemed 
suddenly to rise between them that this was a real 
separation. She was on his mother's side, she 
belonged to his mother's life, and his mother, in 
the future, would never come to Poynton. After 
what had passed she wouldn't even be at his 
wedding, and it was not possible now that Mr. 
Gereth should mention that ceremony to the girl, 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 71 

much less express a wish that the girl should be 
present at it. Mona, from decorum and with 
reference less to the bridegroom than to the bride- 
groom's mother, would of course not invite any 
such girl as Fleda. Everything therefore was 
ended ; they would go their different ways ; this 
was the last time they would stand face to face. 
They looked at each other with the fuller sense of 
it and, on Owen's part, with an expression of dumb 
trouble, the intensification of his usual appeal to 
any interlocutor to add the right thing to what he 
said. To Fleda at this moment it appeared that 
the right thing might easily be the wrong. At 
any rate he only said : " I want you to understand, 
you know I want you to understand." 

What did he want her to understand ? He 
seemed unable to bring it out, and this under- 
standing was moreover exactly what she wished 
not to arrive at. Bewildered as she was, she had 
already taken in as much as she should know what 
to do with ; the blood also was rushing into her 
face. He liked her it was stupefying more 
than he really ought : that was what was the 
matter with him and what he desired her to 
swallow ; so that she was suddenly as frightened 
as some thoughtless girl who finds herself the 
object of an overture from a married man. 

" Good-bye, Mr. Gereth I must get on ! " she 
declared with a cheerfulness that she felt to be an 
unnatural grimace. She broke away from him 
sharply, smiling, backing across the grass and then 



72 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

turning altogether and moving as fast as she could. 
" Good-bye, good-bye ! " she threw off again as she 
went, wondering if he would overtake her before 
she reached the gate ; conscious with a red disgust 
that her movement was almost a run ; conscious 
too of just the confused handsome face with which 
he would look after her. She felt as if she had 
answered a kindness with a great flouncing snub 
but in any case she had got away, though the 
distance to the gate, her ugly gallop down the 
Broad Walk, every graceless jerk of which hurt 
her, seemed endless. She signed from afar to a 
cab on the stand in the Kensington Road and 
scrambled into it, glad of the encompassment of 
the four-wheeler that had officiously obeyed her 
summons and that, at the end of twenty yards, 
when she had violently pulled up a glass, permitted 
her to recognise the fact that she was on the point 
of bursting into tears. 



VII 

As soon as her sister was married she went 
down to Mrs. Gereth at Ricks a promise to this 
effect having been promptly exacted and given ; 
and her inner vision was much more fixed on the 
alterations there, complete now as she understood, 
than on the success of her plotting and pinching 
for Maggie's happiness. Her imagination, in the 
interval, had indeed had plenty to do and numerous 
scenes to visit ; for when on the summons just 
mentioned it had taken a flight from West 
Kensington to Ricks, it had hung but an hour 
over the terrace of painted pots and then yielded 
to a current of the upper air that swept it straight 
off to Poynton and to Waterbath. Not a sound 
had reached her of any supreme clash, and Mrs. 
Gereth had communicated next to nothing ; giving 
out that, as was easily conceivable, she was too 
busy, too bitter and too tired for vain civilities. 
All she had written was that she had got the new 
place well in hand and that Fleda would be 
surprised at the way it was turning out. Every- 
thing was even yet upside down ; nevertheless, in 
the sense of having passed the threshold of Poynton 

73 



74 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

for the last time, the amputation, as she called it 
had been performed. Her leg had come off she 
had now begun to stump along with the lovely 
wooden substitute ; she would stump for life, and 
what her young friend was to come and admire 
was the beauty of her movement and the noise she 
made about the house. The reserve of Poynton 
and Waterbath had been matched by the austerity 
of Fleda's own secret, under the discipline of which 
she had repeated to herself a hundred times a day 
that she rejoiced at having cares that excluded all 
thought of it. She had lavished herself, in act, on 
Maggie and the curate, and had opposed to her 
father's selfishness a sweetness quite ecstatic. The 
young couple wondered why they had waited so 
long, since everything was after all so easy. She 
had thought of everything, even to how the 
" quietness " of the wedding should be relieved by 
champagne and her father kept brilliant on a 
single bottle. Fleda knew, in short, and liked 
the knowledge, that for several weeks she had 
appeared exemplary in every relation of life. 

She had been perfectly prepared to be surprised 
at Ricks, for Mrs. Gereth was a wonder-working 
wizard, with a command, when all was said, of 
good material ; but the impression in wait for her 
on the threshold made her catch her breath and 
falter. Dusk had fallen when she arrived, and in 
the plain square hall, one of the few good features, 
the glow of a Venetian lamp just showed, on either 
wall, the richness of an admirable tapestry. This 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 75 

instant perception that the place had been dressed 
at the expense of Poynton was a shock : it was as 
if she had abruptly seen herself in the light of an 
accomplice. The next moment, folded in Mrs. 
Gereth's arms, her eyes were diverted ; but she had 
already had, in a flash, the vision of the great gaps 
in the other house. The two tapestries, not the 
largest, but those most splendidly toned by time, 
had been on the whole its most uplifted pride. 
When she could really see again she was on a sofa 
in the drawing-room, staring with intensity at an 
object soon distinct as the great Italian cabinet 
that, at Poynton, had been in the red saloon, 
Without looking, she was sure the room was 
occupied with other objects like it, stuffed with as 
many as it could hold of the trophies of her friend's 
struggle. By this time the very fingers of her 
glove, resting on the seat of the sofa, had thrilled 
at the touch of an old velvet brocade, a wondrous 
texture that she could recognise, would have 
recognised among a thousand, without dropping 
her eyes on it. They stuck to the cabinet with a 
kind of dissimulated dread, while she painfully 
asked herself whether she should notice it, notice 
everything, or just pretend not to be affected. 
How could she pretend not to be affected, with the 
very pendants of the lustres tinkling at her, and 
with Mrs. Gereth beside her and staring at her 
even as she herself stared at the cabinet, hunching 
up a back like Atlas under his globe ? She was 
appalled at this image of what Mrs. Gereth had on 



76 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

her shoulders. That lady was waiting and watch- 
ing her, bracing herself and preparing the same 
face of confession and defiance she had shown the 
day, at Poynton, she had been surprised in the 
corridor. It was farcical not to speak ; and yet to 
exclaim, to participate, would give one a bad sense 
of being mixed up with a theft. This ugly word 
sounded, for herself, in Fleda's silence, and the very 
violence of it jarred her into a scared glance, as of 
a creature detected, to right and left. But what 
again the full picture most showed her was the 
far-away empty sockets, a scandal of nakedness in 
high, bare walls. She at last uttered something 
formal and incoherent she didn't know what : it 
had no relation to either house. Then she felt 
Mrs. Gereth's hand once more on her arm. " I've 
arranged a charming room for you it's really 
lovely. You'll be very happy there." This was 
spoken with extraordinary sweetness and with a 
smile that meant : " Oh, I know what you're think- 
ing ; but what does it matter when you're so loyally 
on my side?" It had come indeed to a question 
of " sides," Fleda thought, for the whole place was 
in battle array. In the soft lamplight, with one 
fine feature after another looming up into sombre 
richness, it defied her not to pronounce it a triumph 
of taste. Her passion for beauty leaped back into 
life ; and was not what now most appealed to it a 
certain gorgeous audacity? Mrs. Gereth's high 
hand was, as mere great effect, the climax of the 
impression. 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 77 

" It's too wonderful, what you've done with the 
house ! " the visitor met her friend's eyes. They 
lighted up with joy that friend herself so pleased 
with what she had done. This was not at all, in 
its accidental air of enthusiasm, what Fleda wanted 
to have said : it offered her as stupidly announcing 
from the first minute on whose side she was. Such 
was clearly the way Mrs. Gereth took it; she threw 
herself upon the delightful girl and tenderly em- 
braced her again ; so that Fleda soon went on, with 
a studied difference and a cooler inspection : 
" Why, you brought away absolutely everything ! " 

" Oh no, not everything. I saw how little I 
could get into this scrap of a house. I only 
brought away what I required." 

Fleda had got up ; she took a turn round the 
room. " You ' required ' the very best pieces the 
morceaux de musee, the individual gems ! " 

" I certainly didn't want the rubbish, if that's 
what you mean." Mrs. Gereth, on the sofa, fol- 
lowed the direction of her companion's eyes ; with 
the light of her satisfaction still in her face she 
slowly rubbed her large handsome hands. Wher- 
ever she was, she was herself the great piece in the 
gallery. It was the first Fleda had heard of there 
being " rubbish " at Poynton, but she didn't for the 
moment take up this insincerity; she only, from 
where she stood in the room, called out, one after 
the other, as if she had had a list before her, the 
items that in the great house had been scattered and 
that now, if they had a fault, were too much like a 



78 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

minuet danced on a hearth-rug. She knew them 
each, in every chink and charm knew them by 
the personal name their distinctive sign or story 
had given them ; and a second time she felt how, 
against her intention, this uttered knowledge struck 
her hostess as so much free approval. Mrs. Gereth 
was never indifferent to approval, and there was 
nothing she could so love you for as for doing 
justice to her deep morality. There was a particular 
gleam - in her eyes when Fleda exclaimed at last, 
dazzled by the display : " And even the Maltese 
cross ! " That description, though technically in- 
correct, had always been applied at Poynton to a 
small but marvellous crucifix of ivory, a master- 
piece of delicacy, of expression and of the great 
Spanish period, the existence and precarious acces- 
sibility of which she had heard of at Malta, years 
before, by an odd and romantic chance a clue 
followed through mazes of secrecy till the treasure 
was at last unearthed. 

" * Even ' the Maltese cross ? " Mrs. Gereth rose 
as she sharply echoed the words. " My dear child, 
you don't suppose I'd have sacrificed that ! For 
what in the world would you have taken me ? " 

" A bibelot the more or less," Fleda said, " could 
have made little difference in this grand general 
view of you. I take you simply for the greatest of 
all conjurers. You've operated with a quickness 
and with a quietness ! " Her voice trembled a little 
as she spoke, for the plain meaning of her words 
was that what her friend had achieved belonged to 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 79 

the class of operation, essentially involving the 
protection of darkness. Fleda felt she really could 
say nothing at all if she couldn't say that she knew 
what the danger had been. She completed her 
thought by a resolute and perfectly candid ques- 
tion. " How in the world did you get off with 
them ? " 

Mrs. Gereth confessed to the fact of danger with 
a cynicism that surprised the girl. " By calculating, 
by choosing my time. I was quiet and I was 
quick. I manoeuvred ; then at the last rushed ! " 
Fleda drew a long breath : she saw in the poor 
woman something much better than sophistical 
ease, a crude elation that was a comparatively 
simple state to deal with. Her elation, it was 
true, was not so much from what she had done as 
from the way she had done it by as brilliant a 
stroke as any commemorated in the annals of 
crime. " I succeeded because I had thought it all 
out and left nothing to chance. The whole process 
was organised in advance, so that the mere carry- 
ing it into effect took but a few hours. It was 
largely a matter of money : oh, I was horribly 
extravagant I had to turn on so many people. 
But they were all to be had a little army of 
workers, 'the packers, the porters, the helpers of 
every sort, the men with the mighty vans. It was 
a question of arranging in Tottenham Court Road 
and of paying the price. I haven't paid it yet; 
there'll be a horrid bill ; but at least the thing's 
done! Expedition pure and simple was the 



So THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

essence of the bargain. * I can give you two days,' 
I said ; ' I can't give you another second.' They 
undertook the job, and the two days saw them 
through. The people came down on a Tuesday 
morning ; they were off on the Thursday. I admit 
that some of them worked all Wednesday night. 
I had thought it all out ; I stood over them ; I 
showed them how. Yes, I coaxed them, I made 
love to them. Oh, I was inspired they found me 
wonderful. I neither ate nor slept, but I was as 
calm as I am now. I didn't know what was in me ; 
it was worth finding out. I'm very remarkable, my 
dear : I lifted tons with my own arms. I'm tired, 
very, very tired ; but there's neither a scratch nor 
a nick, there isn't a teacup missing." Magnificent 
both in her exhaustion and in her triumph, Mrs. 
Gereth sank on the sofa again, the sweep of her 
eyes a rich synthesis and the restless friction of her 
hands a clear betrayal. " Upon my word," she 
laughed, " they really look better here ! " 

Fleda had listened in awe. "And no one at 
Poynton said anything ? There was no alarm ? " 

"What alarm should there have been? Owen 
left me almost defiantly alone. I had taken a time 
that I had reason to believe was safe from a 
descent." Fleda had another wonder, which she 
hesitated to express : it would scarcely do to ask 
Mrs. Gereth if she hadn't stood in fear of her 
servants. She knew moreover some of the secrets 
of her humorous household rule, all made up of 
shocks to shyness and provocations to curiosity a 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 81 

diplomacy so artful that several of the maids quite 
yearned to accompany her to Ricks. Mrs. Gereth, 
reading sharply the whole of her visitor's thought, 
caught it up with fine frankness. " You mean that 
I was watched that he had his myrmidons, 
pledged to wire him if they should see what I was 
' up to ' ? Precisely. I know the three persons 
you have in mind : I had them in mind myself. 
Well, I took a line with them I settled them." 

Fleda had had no one in particular in mind ; she 
had never believed in the myrmidons ; but the tone 
in which Mrs. Gereth spoke added to her suspense. 
" What did you do to them ? " 

" I took hold of them hard I put them in the 
forefront. I made them work." 

" To move the furniture ? " 

" To help, and to help so as to please me. That 
was the way to take them : it was what they had 
least expected. I marched up to them and looked 
each straight in the eye, giving him the chance to 
choose if he'd gratify me or gratify my son. He 
gratified me. They were too stupid ! " 

Mrs. Gereth massed herself more and more as an 
immoral woman, but Fleda had to recognise that 
she too would have been stupid and she too would 
have gratified her. " And when did all this take 
place?" 

" Only last week ; it seems a hundred years. 
We've worked here as fast as we worked there, but 
I'm not settled yet : you'll see in the rest of the 
house. However, the worst is over." 

G 



82 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

" Do you really think so ? " Fleda presently 
inquired. " I mean, does he, after the fact, as it 
were, accept it ? " 

" Owen what I've done ? I haven't the least 
idea," said Mrs. Gereth. 

" Does Mona ? " 

" You mean that she'll be the soul of the row ? " 

" I hardly see Mona as the ' soul ' of anything," 
the girl replied. " But have they made no sound ? 
Have you heard nothing at all ? " 

" Not a whisper, not a step, in all the eight days. 
Perhaps they don't know. Perhaps they're crouch- 
ing for a leap." 

" But wouldn't they have gone down as soon as 
you left ? " 

"They may not have known of my leaving." 
Fleda wondered afresh ; it struck her as scarcely 
supposable that some sign shouldn't have flashed 
from Poynton to London. If the storm was taking 
this term of silence to gather, even in Mona's 
breast, it would probably discharge itself in some 
startling form. The great hush of every one con- 
cerned was strange ; but when she pressed Mrs. 
Gereth for some explanation of it that lady only 
replied with her brave irony : " Oh, I took their 
breath away ! " She had no illusions, however ; 
she was still prepared to fight. What indeed was 
her spoliation of Poynton but the first engagement 
of a campaign ? 

All this was exciting, but Fleda's spirit dropped, 
at bedtime, in the chamber embellished for her 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 83 

pleasure, where she found several of the objects 
that in her earlier room she had most admired. 
These had been reinforced by other pieces from 
other rooms, so that the quiet air of it was a 
harmony without a break, the finished picture of a 
maiden's bower. It was the sweetest Louis Seize, 
all assorted and combined old chastened, figured, 
faded France. Fleda was impressed anew with her 
friend's genius for composition. She could say to 
herself that no girl in England, that night, went to 
rest with so picked a guard ; but there was no joy 
for her in her privilege, no sleep even for the tired 
hours that made the place, in the embers of the 
fire and the winter dawn, look grey, somehow, and 
loveless. She couldn't care for such things when 
they came to her in such ways ; there was a wrong 
about them all that turned them to ugliness. In 
the watches of the night she saw Poynton dis- 
honoured ; she had cherished it as a happy whole, 
she reasoned, and the parts of it now around her 
seemed to suffer like chopped limbs. Before going 
to bed she had walked about with Mrs. Gereth and 
seen at whose expense the whole house had been 
furnished. At poor Owen's, from top to bottom 
there wasn't a chair he hadn't sat upon. The 
maiden aunt had been exterminated no trace of 
her to tell her tale. Fleda tried to think of some of 
the things at Poynton still unappropriated, but her 
memory was a blank about them, and in trying to 
focus the old combinations she saw again nothing 
but gaps and scars, a vacancy that gathered at 



84 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

moments into something worse. This concrete 
image was her greatest trouble, for it was Owen 
Gereth's face, his sad, strange eyes, fixed upon her 
now as they had never been. They stared at her 
out of the darkness, and their expression was more 
than she could bear : it seemed to say that he was 
in pain and that it was somehow her fault. He 
had looked to her to help him, and this was what 
her help had been. He had done her the honour 
to ask her to exert herself in his interest, confiding 
to her a task of difficulty, but of the highest deli- 
cacy. Hadn't that been exactly the sort of service 
she longed to render him? Well, her way of 
rendering it had been simply to betray him and 
hand him over to his enemy. Shame, pity, resent- 
ment oppressed her in turn ; in the last of these 
feelings the others were quickly submerged. Mrs. 
Gereth had imprisoned her in that torment of taste ; 
but it was clear to her for an hour at least that she 
might hate Mrs. Gereth. 

Something else, however, when morning came, 
was even more intensely definite : the most odious 
thing in the world for her would be ever again to 
meet Owen. She took on the spot a resolve to 
neglect no precaution that could lead to her going 
through life without that calamity. After this, 
while she dressed, she took still another. Her 
position had become in a few hours intolerably 
false ; in as few more hours as possible she would 
therefore put an end to it. The way to put an end 
to it would be to inform Mrs, Gereth that, to her 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 85 

great regret, she couldn't be with her now, couldn't 
cleave to her to the point that everything about her 
so plainly urged. She dressed with a sort of 
violence, a symbol of the manner in which this 
purpose ? was precipitated. The more they parted 
company the less likely she was to come across 
Owen ; for Owen would be drawn closer to his 
mother now by the very necessity of bringing her 
down. Fleda, in the inconsequence of distress, 
wished to have nothing to do with her fall ; she had 
had too much to do with everything. She was 
well aware of the importance, before breakfast 
and in view of any light they might shed on the 
question of motive, of not suffering her invidious 
expression of a difference to be accompanied by 
the traces of tears ; but it none the less came to 
pass, down-stairs, that after she had subtly put her 
back to the window to make a mystery of the state 
of her eyes she stupidly let a rich sob escape her 
before she could properly meet the consequences of 
being asked if she wasn't delighted with her room. 
This accident struck her on the "spot as so grave 
that she felt the only refuge to be instant hypocrisy, 
some graceful impulse that would charge her 
emotion to the quickened sense of her friend's 
generosity a demonstration entailing a flutter 
round the table and a renewed embrace, and not so 
successfully improvised but that Fleda fancied Mrs. 
Gereth to have been only half reassured. She had 
been startled at any rate and she might remain 
suspicious : this reflection interposed by the time, 



86 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

after breakfast, the girl had recovered sufficiently 
to say what was in her heart. She accordingly 
didn't say it that morning at all. She had absurdly 
veered about ; she had encountered the shock of 
the fear that Mrs. Gereth, with sharpened eyes, 
might wonder why the deuce (she often wondered 
in that phrase) she had grown so warm about 
Owen's rights. She would doubtless at a pinch be 
able to defend them on abstract grounds, but that 
would involve a discussion, and the idea of a 
discussion made her nervous for her secret. Until 
in some way Poynton should return the blow and 
give her a cue she must keep nervousness down ; 
and she called herself a fool for having forgotten, 
however briefly, that her one safety was in silence. 
Directly after luncheon Mrs. Gereth took her into 
the garden for a glimpse of the revolution or at 
least, said the mistress of Ricks, of the great row 
that had been decreed there; but the ladies had 
scarcely placed themselves for this view before the 
younger one found herself embracing a prospect 
that opened in quite another quarter. Her atten- 
tion was called to it, oddly, by the streamers of 
the parlour-maid's cap, which, flying straight be- 
hind the neat young woman who unexpectedly 
burst from the house and showed a long red face 
as she ambled over the grass, seemed to articulate 
in their flutter the name that Fleda lived at present 
only to catch. "Poynton Poynton!" said the 
morsels of muslin ; so that the parlour-maid be- 
came on the instant an actress in the drama, and 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 87 

Fleda, assuming pusillanimously that she herself 
was only a spectator, looked across the footlights 
at the exponent of the principal part. The manner 
in which this artist returned her look showed that 
she was equally preoccupied. Both were haunted 
alike by possibilities, but the apprehension of 
neither, before the announcement was made, took 
the form of the arrival at Ricks, in the flesh, of 
Mrs. Gereth's victim. When the messenger in- 
formed them that Mr. Gereth was in the drawing- 
room the blank " Oh ! " emitted by Fleda was 
quite as precipitate as the sound on her hostess's 
lips, besides being, as she felt, much less pertinent. 
" I thought it would be somebody," that lady after- 
wards said ; " but I expected on the whole a 
solicitor's clerk." Fleda didn't mention that she 
herself had expected on the whole a pair of con- 
stables. She was surprised by Mrs. Gereth's 
question to the parlour-maid. 

" For whom did he ask ? " 

" Why, for you, of course, dearest friend ! " Fleda 
interjected, falling instinctively into the address 
that embodied the intensest pressure. She wanted 
to put Mrs. Gereth between her and her danger. 

" He asked for Miss Vetch, mum," the girl replied 
with a face that brought startlingly to Fleda's ear 
the muffled chorus of the kitchen. 

"Quite proper," said Mrs. Gereth austerely. Then 
to Fleda : " Please go to him." 

" But what to do ? " 

" What you always do to see what he wants." 



88 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

Mrs. Gereth dismissed the maid. " Tell him Miss 
Vetch will come." Fleda saw that nothing was in 
the mother's imagination at this moment but the 
desire not to meet her son. She had completely 
broken with him, and there was little in what had 
just happened to repair the rupture. It would now 
take more to do so than his presenting himself 
uninvited at her door. " He's right in asking for 
you he's aware that you're still our communi- 
cator; nothing has occurred to alter that. To what 
he wishes to transmit through you I'm ready, as 
I've been ready before, to listen. As far as 7'm 
concerned, if I couldn't meet him a month ago how 
am I to meet him to-day ? If he has come to say, 
' My dear mother, you're here, in the hovel into 
which I've flung you, with consolations that give 
me pleasure,' I'll listen to him ; but on no other 
footing. That's what you're to ascertain, please. 
You'll oblige me as you've obliged me before. 
There ! " Mrs. Gereth turned her. back and, with a 
fine imitation of superiority, began to redress the 
miseries immediately before her. Fleda meanwhile 
hesitated, lingered for some minutes where she had 
been left, feeling secretly that her fate still had her 
in hand. It had put her face to face with Owen 
Gereth and it evidently meant to keep her so, 
She was reminded afresh of two things : one of 
which was that, though she judged her friend's 
rigour, she had never really had the story of the 
scene enacted in the great awe-stricken house 
between the mother and the son weeks before 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 89 

the day the former took to her bed in her over- 
throw. The other was that at Ricks as at Poyn- 
ton it was before all things her place to accept 
thankfully a usefulness not, she must remember, 
universally acknowledged. What determined her 
at the last, while Mrs. Gereth disappeared in the 
shrubbery, was that, though she was at a distance 
from the house and the drawing-room was turned 
the other way, she could absolutely see the young 
man alone there with the sources of his pain. 
She saw his simple stare at his tapestries, heard 
his heavy tread on his carpets and the hard breath 
of his sense of unfairness. At this she went to 
him fast. 



VIII 

" I ASKED for you," he said when she stood there, 
" because I heard from the flyman who drove me 
from the station to the inn that he had brought 
you here yesterday. We had some talk he 
mentioned it." 

" You didn't know I was here ? " 

"No. I knew only that you had had, in London, 
all that you told me, that day, to do ; and it was 
Mona's idea that after your sister's marriage you 
were staying on with your father. So I thought 
you were with him still." 

" I am," Fleda replied, idealising a little the fact. 
" I'm here only for a moment. But do you mean," 
she went on, " that if you had known I was with 
your mother you wouldn't have come down ? " 

The way Owen hung fire at this question made 
it sound more playful than she had intended. She 
had in fact no consciousness of any intention but 
that of confining herself rigidly to her function. 
She could already see that in whatever he had now 
braced himself for she was an element he had not 

reckoned with. His preparation had been of a 

90 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 91 

different sort the sort congruous with his having 
been careful to go first and lunch solidly at the 
inn. He had not been forced to ask for her, but 
she became aware in his presence of a particular 
desire to make him feel that no harm could really 
come to him. She might upset him, as people 
called it, but she would take no advantage of 
having done so. She had never seen a person 
with whom she wished more to be light and easy, 
to be exceptionally human. The account he 
presently gave of the matter was that he indeed 
wouldn't have come if he had known she was on 
the spot ; because then, didn't she see ? he could 
have written to her. He would have had her there 
to let fly at his mother. 

" That would have saved me well, it would 
have saved me a lot. Of course I would rather 
see you than her," he somewhat awkwardly added. 
" When the fellow spoke of you I assure you I 
quite jumped at you. In fact I've no real desire 
to see Mummy at all. If she thinks I like it ! " 
He sighed disgustedly. " I only came down because 
it seemed better than any other way. I didn't want 
her to be able to say I hadn't been all right. I 
dare say you know she has taken everything ; or if 
not quite everything, why a lot more than one 
ever dreamed. You can see for yourself she has 
got half the place down. She has got them 
crammed you can see for yourself!" He had 
his old trick of artless repetition, his helpless itera- 
tion of the obvious ; but he was sensibly different, 



92 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

for Fleda, if only by the difference of his clear face, 
mottled over and almost disfigured by little points 
of pain. He might have been a fine young man 
with a bad toothache ; with the first even of his 
life. What ailed him above all, she felt, was that 
trouble was new to him. He had never known a 
difficulty; he had taken all his fences, his world 
wholly the world of the personally possible, rounded 
indeed by a grey suburb into which he had never 
had occasion to stray. In this vulgar and ill- 
lighted region he had evidently now lost himself. 
" We left it quite to her honour, you know," he said 
ruefully. 

" Perhaps you've a right to say that you left it 
a little to mine." Mixed up with the spoils there, 
rising before him as if she were in a manner their 
keeper, she felt that she must absolutely disso- 
qiate herself. Mrs. Gereth had made it impossible 
to do anything but give her away. " I can only 
tell you that on my side I left it to her. I never 
dreamed either that she would pick out so many 
things." 

" And you don't really think it's fair, do you ? 
You don't ! " He spoke very quickly ; he really 
seemed to plead. 

Fleda faltered a moment. " I think she has 
gone too far." Then she added : " I shall imme- 
diately tell her that I've said that to you." 

He appeared puzzled by this statement, but he 
presently rejoined : " You haven't then said to 
mamma what you think ? " 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 93 

" Not yet ; remember that I only got here last 
night." She appeared to herself ignobly weak. 
" I had had no idea what she was doing. I was 
taken completely by surprise. She managed it 
wonderfully." 

" It's the sharpest thing I ever saw in my life ! " 
They looked at each other with intelligence, in 
appreciation of the sharpness, and Owen quickly 
broke into a loud laugh. The laugh was in itself 
natural, but the occasion of it strange ; and stranger 
still to Fleda, so that she too almost laughed, the 
inconsequent charity with which he added : " Poor 
dear old Mummy ! That's one of the reasons I 
asked for you," he went on " to see if you'd back 
her up." 

Whatever he said or did she somehow liked him 
the better for it. " How can I back her up, Mr. 
Gereth, when I think, as I tell you, that she has 
made a great mistake ? " 

" A great mistake ! That's all right." He spoke 
it wasn't clear to her why as if this declaration 
were a great point gained. 

"Of course there are many things she hasn't 
taken," Fleda continued. 

" Oh yes, a lot of things. But you wouldn't 
know the place, all the same." He looked about 
the room with his discoloured, swindled face, 
which deepened Fleda's compassion for him, con- 
juring away any smile at so candid an image of 
the dupe. " You'd know this one soon enough, 
wouldn't fyou ? These are just the things she 



94 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

ought to have left. Is the whole house full of 
them?" 

"The whole house," said Fleda uncompromis- 
ingly. She thought of her lovely room. 

" I . never knew how much I cared for them. 
They're awfully valuable, aren't they ? " Owen's 
manner mystified her ; she was conscious of a return 
of the agitation he had produced in her on that 
last bewildering day, and she reminded herself 
that, now she was warned, it would be inexcusable 
of her to allow him to justify the fear that had 
dropped on her. " Mother thinks I never took 
any notice, but I assure you I was awfully proud 
of everything. Upon my honour I was proud, Miss 
Vetch." 

There was an oddity in his helplessness ; he 
appeared to wish to persuade her and to satisfy 
himself that she sincerely felt how worthy he really 
was to treat what had happened as an injury. 
She could only exclaim almost as helplessly as 
himself: "Of course you did justice! It's all most 
painful. I shall instantly let your mother know," 
she again declared, " the way I've spoken of her 
to you." She clung to that idea as to the sign of 
her straightness. 

" You'll tell her what you think she ought to do ? " 
he asked with some eagerness. 

" What she ought to do ? " 

" Dorit you think it I mean that she ought to 
give them up ? " 

" To give them up ? " Fleda hesitated again. 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 95 

"To send them back to keep it quiet." The 
girl had not felt the impulse to ask him to sit down 
among the monuments of his wrong, so that, 
nervously, awkwardly, he fidgeted about the room 
with his hands in his pockets and an effect of 
returning a little into possession through the for- 
mulation of his view. " To have them packed and 
despatched again, since she knows so well how. 
She does it beautifully " he looked close at two or 
three precious pieces. " What's sauce for the goose 
is sauce for the gander ! " 

He had laughed at his way of putting it, but 
Fleda remained grave. "Is that what you came 
to say to her ? " 

"Not exactly those words. But I did come to 
say " he stammered, then brought it out " I did 
come to say we must have them right back." 

" And did you think your mother would see you?" 

" I wasn't sure, but I thought it right to try 
to put it to her kindly, don't you see? If she 
won't see me, then she has herself to thank. The 
only other way would have been to set the lawyers 
at her." 

" I'm glad you didn't do that." 

"I'm dashed if I want to!" Owen honestly 
responded. " But what's a fellow to do if she 
won't meet a fellow ? " 

"What do you call meeting a fellow?" Fleda 
asked with a smile. 

" Why, letting me tell her a dozen things she can 
have." 



96 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

This was a transaction that Fleda, after a 
moment, had to give up trying to represent to 
herself. "If she won't do that ? " she went on. 

" I'll leave it all to my solicitor. He won't let 
her off, by Jove. I know the fellow ! " 

" That's horrible ! " said Fleda, looking at him 
in woe. 

" It's utterly beastly." 

His want of logic as well as his vehemence 
startled her ; and with her eyes still on his she 
considered before asking him the question these 
things suggested. At last she asked it. " Is Mona 
very angry ? " 

" Oh dear, yes ! " said Owen. 

She had perceived that he wouldn't speak of 
Mona without her beginning. After waiting fruit- 
lessly now for him to say more she continued : 
"She has been there again? She has seen the 
state of the house ? " 

" Oh dear, yes ! " Owen repeated. 

Fleda disliked to appear not to take account of 
his brevity, but it was just because she was struck 
by it that she felt the pressure of the desire to know 
more. What it suggested was simply what her 
intelligence supplied, for he was incapable of any 
art of insinuation. Wasn't it at all events the rule 
of communication with him to say for him what he 
couldn't say ? This truth was present to the girl 
as she inquired if Mona greatly resented what Mrs. 
Gereth had done. He satisfied her promptly ; he 
was standing before the fire, his back to it, hl long 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 97 

legs apart, his hands, behind him, rather violently 
jiggling his gloves. " She hates it awfully. In 
fact she refuses to put up with it at all. Don't you 
see ? she saw the place with all the things." 

" So that of course she misses them." 

" Misses them rather ! She was awfully sweet 
on them." Fleda remembered how sweet Mona 
had been, and reflected that if that was the sort of 
plea he had prepared it was indeed as well he 
shouldn't see his mother. This was not all she 
wanted to know, but it came over her that it was 
all she needed. " You see it puts me in the position 
of not carrying out what I promised," Owen said. 
" As she says herself" he hesitated an instant 
"it's just as if I had obtained her under false 
pretences." Just before, when he spoke with more 
drollery than he knew, it had left Fleda serious ; 
but now his own clear gravity had the effect of 
exciting her mirth. She laughed out, and he looked 
surprised, but went on : " She regards it as a regular 
sell." 

Fleda was silent ; but finally, as he added 
nothing, she exclaimed : " Of course it makes a 
great difference ! " She knew all she needed, but 
none the less she risked after another pause an 
interrogative remark. " I forget when it is that 
your marriage takes place ? " 

Owen came away from the fire and, apparently 
at a loss where to turn, ended by directing himself 
to one of the windows. " It's a little uncertain. 
The date isn't quite fixed." 

H 



98 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

" Oh, I thought I remembered that at Poynton 
you had told me a day, and that it was near at 
hand." 

"I dare say I did; it was for the ipth. But 
we've altered that she wants to shift it." He 
looked out of the window ; then he said : " In fact 
it won't come off till Mummy has come round." 

" Come round ? " 

" Put the place as it was." In his off-hand way 
he added : " You know what I mean ! " 

He spoke not impatiently, but with a kind of 
intimate familiarity, the sweetness of which made 
her feel a pang for having forced him to tell her 
what was embarrassing to him, what was even 
humiliating. Yes indeed, she knew all she needed : 
all she needed was that Mona had proved apt at 
putting down that wonderful patent-leather foot. 
Her type was misleading only to the superficial, 
and no one in the world was less superficial than 
Fleda. She had guessed the truth at Waterbath 
and she had suffered from it at Poynton ; at Ricks 
the only thing she could do was to accept it with 
the dumb exaltation that she felt rising. Mona 
had been prompt with her exercise of the member 
in question, for it might be called prompt to do that 
sort of thing before marriage. That she had 
indeed been premature who should say save those 
who should have read the matter in the full light 
of results? Neither at Waterbath nor Poynton 
had even Fleda's thoroughness discovered all that 
there was or rather all that there was not in 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 99 

Owen Gereth. "Of course it makes all the dif- 
ference ! " she said in answer to his last words. 
She pursued, after considering : " What you wish 
me to say from you then to your mother is that 
you demand immediate and practically complete 
restitution ? " 

" Yes, please. It's tremendously good of you." 
" Very well, then. Will you wait ? " 
" For Mummy's answer ? " Owen stared and 
looked perplexed ; he was more and more fevered 
with so much vivid expression of his case. " Don't 
you think that if I'm here she may hate it worse 
think I may want to make her reply bang off? " 
Fleda thought. " You don't, then ? " 
" I want to take her in the right way, don't you 
know ? treat her as if I gave her more than just 
an hour or two." 

" I see," said Fleda. " Then if you don't wait- 
good-bye." 

This again seemed not what he wanted. " Must 
you do it bang off?" 

" I'm only thinking she'll be impatient I mean, 
you know, to learn what will have passed between 
us." 

" I see," said Owen, looking at his gloves, " I 
can give her a day or two, you know. Of course 
I didn't come down to sleep," he went on. " The 
inn seems a horrible hole. I know all about the 
trains having no idea you were here." Almost 
as soon as his interlocutress he was struck with 
the absence of the visible, in this, as between 



ioo THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

effect and cause. " I mean because in that case 
I should have felt I could stop over. I should 
have felt I could talk with you a blessed sight 
longer than with Mummy." 

"We've already talked a long time," smiled 
Fleda. 

"Awfully, haven't we?" He spoke with the 
stupidity she didn't object to. Inarticulate as 
he was he had more to say ; he lingered per- 
haps because he was vaguely aware of the want 
of sincerity in her encouragement to hjm to go. 
" There's one thing, please," he mentioned, as if 
there might be a great many others too. " Please 
don't say anything about Mona." 

She didn't understand. " About Mona ? " 

" About it being her that thinks she has gone 
too far." This was still slightly obscure, but now 
Fleda understood. "It mustn't seem to come 
from her at all, don't you know? That would 
only make Mummy worse." 

Fleda knew exactly how much worse, but she 
felt a delicacy about explicitly assenting : she was 
already immersed moreover in the deep consider- 
ation of what might make " Mummy " better. 
She couldn't see as yet at all ; she could only 
clutch at the hope of some inspiration after he 
should go. Oh, there was a remedy, to be sure, 
but it was out of the question ; in spite of which, 
in the strong light of Owen's troubled presence, 
of his anxious face and restless step, it hung 
there before her for some minutes. She felt 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 101 

that, remarkably, beneath the decent rigour of his 
errand, the poor young man, for reasons, for 
weariness, for disgust, would have been ready not 
to insist. His fitness to fight his mother had left 
him he wasn't in fighting trim. He had no 
natural avidity and even no special wrath ; he had 
none that had not been taught him, and it was 
doing his best to learn the lesson that had made 
him so sick. He had his delicacies, but he hid 
them away like presents before Christmas. He 
was hollow, perfunctory, pathetic ; he had been 
girded by another hand. That hand had naturally 
been Mona's, and it was heavy even now on his 
strong, broad back. Why then had he originally 
rejoiced so in its touch ? Fleda dashed aside 
this question, for it had nothing to do with her 
problem. Her problem was to help him to live 
as a gentleman and carry through what he had 
undertaken ; her problem was to reinstate him in 
his rights. It was quite irrelevant that Mona had 
no intelligence of what she had lost quite 
irrelevant that she was moved not by the priva- 
tion but by the insult. She had every reason to 
be moved, though she was so much more movable, 
in the vindictive way at any rate, than one might 
have supposed assuredly more than Owen him- 
self had imagined. 

"Certainly I shall not mention Mona," Fleda 
said, "and there won't be the slightest necessity 
for it. The wrong's quite sufficiently yours, and 
the demand you make is perfectly justified by it." 



102 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

" I can't tell you what it is to me to feel you 
on my side ! " Owen exclaimed. 

" Up to this time," said Fleda after a pause, " your 
mother has had no doubt of my being on hers." 

" Then of course she won't like your changing." 

" I dare say she won't like it at all." 

"Do you mean to say you'll have a regular 
kick-up with her ? " 

" I don't exactly know what you mean by a 
regular kick-up. We shall naturally have a great 
deal of discussion if she consents to discuss 
the matter at all. That's why you must decidedly 
give her two or three days." 

" I see you think she may refuse to discuss it 
at all," said Owen. 

" I'm only trying to be prepared for the worst. 
You must remember that to have to withdraw 
from the ground she has taken, to make a public 
surrender of what she had publicly appropriated, 
will go uncommonly hard with her pride." 

Owen considered ; his face seemed to broaden, 
but not into a smile. "I suppose she's tremen- 
dously proud, isn't she ? " This might have been 
the first time it had occurred to him. 

" You know better than I," said Fleda, speaking 
with high extravagance. 

" I don't know anything in the world half so 
well as you. If I were as clever as you I might 
hope to get round her." Owen hesitated ; then 
he went on : " In fact I don't quite see what even 
you can say or do that will really fetch her." 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 103 

" Neither do I, as yet. I must think I must 
pray ! " the girl pursued, smiling. " I can only 
say to you that I'll try. I want to try, you know 
I want to help you." He stood looking at her 
so long on this that she added with much dis- 
tinctness : " So you must leave me, please, quite 
alone with her. You must go straight back." 

" Back to the inn ? " 

" Oh, no, back to town. I'll write to you to- 
morrow." 

He turned about vaguely for his hat. " There's 
the chance, of course, that she may be afraid." 

" Afraid, you mean, of the legal steps you may 
take?" 

" I've got a perfect case I could have her up. 
The Brigstocks say it's simply stealing." 

" I can easily fancy what the Brigstocks say ! " 
Fleda permitted herself to remark without solem- 
nity. 

" It's none of their business, is it ? " was Owen's 
unexpected rejoinder. Fleda had already noted 
that no one so slow could ever have had such 
rapid transitions. 

She showed her amusement. " They've a much 
better right to say it's none of mine." 

" Well, at any rate you don't call her names." 

Fleda wondered whether Mona did ; and this 
made it all the finer of her to exclaim in a 
moment : " You don't know what I shall call her 
if she holds out ! " 

Owen gave her a gloomy glance ; then he blew 



104 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

a speck off the crown of his hat. " But if you do 
have a set-to with her ? " 

He paused so long for a reply that Fleda said 
" I don't think I know what you mean by a set-to. 

" Well, if she calls you names." 

" I don't think she'll do that." 

" What I mean to say is, if she's angry at your 
backing me up what will you do then? She 
can't possibly like it, you know." 

" She may very well not like it ; but everything 
depends. I must see what I shall do. You 
mustn't worry about me." 

She spoke with decision, but Owen seemed still 
unsatisfied. " You won't go away, I hope ? " 

"Go away?" 

" If she does take it ill of you." 

Fleda moved to the door and opened it. " I'm 
not prepared to say. You must have patience 
and see." 

" Of course I must," said Owen " of course, of 
course." But he took no more advantage of the 
open door than to say : " You want me to be off, 
and I'm off in a minute. Only, before I go, please 
answer me a question. If you should leave my 
mother, where would you go ? " 

Fleda smiled again. " I haven't the least idea." 

" I suppose you'd go back to London." 

" I haven't the least idea," Fleda repeated. 

"You don't a live anywhere in particular, 
do you?" the young man went on. He looked 
conscious as soon as he had spoken ; she could 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 105 

see that he felt himself to have alluded more 
grossly than he meant to the circumstance of her 
having, if one were plain about it, no home of her 
own. He had meant it as an allusion of a tender 
sort to all that she would sacrifice in the case of 
a quarrel with his mother ; but there was indeed 
no graceful way of touching on that. One just 
couldn't be plain about it. 

Fleda, wound up as she was, shrank from any 
treatment at all of the matter, and she made no 
answer to his question. " I won't leave your 
mother," she said. " I'll produce an effect on her ; 
I'll convince her absolutely." 

" I believe you will, if you look at her like 
that ! " 

She was wound up to such a height that there 
might well be a light in her pale, fine little face 
a light that, while for all return at first she simply 
shone back at him, was intensely reflected in his 
own. " I'll make her see it ; I'll make her see it ! " 
she rang out like a silver bell. She had at that 
moment a perfect faith that she should succeed ; 
but it passed into something else when, the next 
instant, she became aware that Owen, quickly 
getting between her and the door she had opened, 
was sharply closing it, as might be said, in her 
face. He had done this before she could stop him, 
and he stood there with his hand on the knob and 
smiled at her strangely. Clearer than he could 
have spoken it was the sense of those seconds of 
silence. 



io6 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

" When I got into this I didn't know you, and 
now that I know you how can I tell you the differ- 
ence ? And she's so different, so ugly and vulgar, 
in the light of this squabble. No, like you I've 
never known one. It's another thing, it's a new 
thing altogether. Listen to me a little : can't 
something be done?" It was what had been in 
the air in those moments at Kensington, and it 
only wanted words to be a committed act. The 
more reason, to the girl's excited mind, why it 
shouldn't have words ; her one thought was not to 
hear, to keep the act uncommitted. She would do 
this if she had to be horrid. 

" Please let me out, Mr. Gereth," she said ; on 
which he opened the door with a hesitation so 
very brief that in thinking of these things after- 
wards for she was to think of them for ever she 
wondered in what tone she could have spoken. 
They went into the hall, where she encountered 
the parlour-maid, of whom she inquired whether 
Mrs. Gereth had come in. 

" No, miss ; and I think she has left the garden. 
She has gone up the back road." In other words 
they had the whole place to themselves. It would 
have been a pleasure, in a different mood, to 
converse with that parlour-maid. 

" Please open the house-door," said Fleda. 

Owen, as if in quest of his umbrella, looked 
vaguely about the hall looked even wistfully up 
the staircase while the neat young woman com- 
plied with Fleda's request. Owen's eyes then 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 107 

wandered out of the open door. " I think it's 
awfully nice here," he observed. " I assure you I 
could do with it myself." 

" I should think you might, with half your 
things here ! It's Poynton itself almost. Good- 
bye, Mr. Gereth," Fleda added. Her intention 
had naturally been that the neat young woman, 
opening the front door, should remain to close it 
on the departing guest. That functionary, how- 
ever, had acutely vanished behind a stiff flap of 
green baize which Mrs. Gereth had not yet had 
time to abolish. Fleda put out her hand, but 
Owen turned away he couldn't find his umbrella. 
She passed into the open air she was determined 
to get him out ; and in a moment he joined her 
in the little plastered portico which had small 
resemblance to any feature of Poynton. It was, 
as Mrs. Gereth had said, like the portico of a house 
in Brompton. 

" Oh, I don't mean with all the things here," he 
explained in regard to the opinion he had just 
expressed. " I mean I could put up with it just 
as it was ; it had a lot of good things, don't you 
think ? I mean if everything was back at Poynton, 
if everything was all right." He brought out these 
last words with a sort of smothered sigh. Fleda 
didn't understand his explanation unless it had 
reference to another and more wonderful exchange 
the restoration to the great house not only of 
its tables and chairs but of its alienated mistress. 
This would imply the installation of his own life 



io8 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

at Ricks, and obviously that of another person. 
Such another person could scarcely be Mona 
Brigstock. He put out his hand now ; and once 
more she heard his unsounded words. "With 
everything patched up at the other place, I could 
live here with you. Don't you see what I mean?" 

Fleda saw perfectly and, with a face in which 
she flattered herself that nothing of this vision 
appeared, gave him her hand and said : " Good- 
bye, good-bye." 

Owen held her hand very firmly and kept it 
even after an effort made by her to recover it 
an effort not repeated, as she felt it best not to 
show she was flurried. That solution of her 
living with him at Ricks disposed of him beauti- 
fully and disposed not less so of herself; it dis- 
posed admirably too of Mrs. Gereth. Fleda could 
only vainly wonder how it provided for poor 
Mona. While he looked at her, grasping her 
hand, she felt that now indeed she was paying for 
his mother's extravagance at Poynton the vivid- 
ness of that lady's public plea that little Fleda 
Vetch was the person to insure the general peace. 
It was to that vividness poor Owen had come 
back, and if Mrs. Gereth had had more discretion 
little Fleda Vetch wouldn't have been in a predica- 
ment. She saw that Owen had at this moment 
his sharpest necessity of speech, and so long as 
he didn't release her hand she could only submit 
to him. Her defence would be perhaps to look 
blank and hard ; so she looked as blank and as 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 109 

hard as she could, with the reward of an immedi- 
ate sense that this was not a bit what he wanted. 
It even made him hang fire as if he were suddenly 
ashamed of himself, were recalled to some idea of 
duty and of honour. Yet he none the less brought 
it out. " There's one thing I dare say I ought to 
tell you, if you're going so kindly to act for me ; 
though of course you'll see for yourself it's a thing 
it won't do to tell her." What was it ? He made 
her wait for it again, and while she waited, under 
firm coercion, she had the extraordinary impression 
that Owen's simplicity was in eclipse. His natural 
honesty was like the scent of a flower, and she felt 
at this moment as if her nose had been brushed 
by the bloom without the odour. The allusion 
was undoubtedly to his mother ; and was not what 
he meant about the matter in question the opposite 
of what he said that it just would do to tell her ? 
It would have been the first time he had said the 
opposite of what he meant, and there was certainly 
a fascination in the phenomenon as well as a 
challenge to suspense in the ambiguity. " It's just 
that I understand from Mona, you know," he 
stammered ; " it's just that she has made no bones 
about bringing home to me " He tried to laugh, 
and in the effort he faltered again. 

" About bringing home to you ? " Fleda encour- 
aged him. 

He was sensible of it, he achieved his perform- 
ance. " Why, that if I don't get the things back 
. every blessed one of them except a few she'll 



no THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

pick out she won't have anything more to say 
to me." 

Fleda after an instant encouraged him again. 
"To say to you?" 

"Why, she simply won't marry me, don't you 
see?" ' 

Owen's legs, not to mention his voice, had 
wavered while he spoke, and she felt his posses- 
sion of her hand loosen so that she was free again. 
Her stare of perception broke into a lively laugh. 
" Oh, you're all right, for you will get them. You 
will ; you're quite safe ; don't worry ! " She fell 
back into the house with her hand on the door. 
" Good-bye, good-bye." She repeated it several 
times, laughing bravely, quite waving him away 
and, as he didn't move and save that he was on 
the other side of it, closing the door in his face 
quite as he had closed that of the drawing-room 
in hers. Never had a face, never at least had such 
a handsome one, been so presented to that offence. 
She even held the door a minute, lest he should 
try to come in again. At last as she heard nothing 
she made a dash for the stairs and ran up. 



IX 

IN knowing a while before all she needed she 
had been far from knowing as much as that ; so 
that once up-stairs, where, in her room, with her 
sense of danger and trouble, the age of Louis Seize 
suddenly struck her as wanting in taste and point, 
she felt that she now for the first time knew her 
temptation. Owen had put it before her with an 
art beyond his own dream. Mona would cast him 
off if he didn't proceed to extremities ; if his negoti- 
ation with his mother should fail he would be com- 
pletely free. That negotiation depended on a 
young lady to whom he had pressingly suggested 
the condition of his freedom ; and as if to aggravate 
the young lady's predicament, designing fate had 
sent Mrs. Gereth, as the parlour-maid said, " up the 
back road." This would give the young lady more 
time to make up her mind that nothing should 
come of the negotiation. There would be different 
ways of putting the question to Mrs. Gereth, and 
Fleda might profitably devote the moments before 
her return to a selection of the way that would most 

surely be tantamount to failure. > This selection 

in 



U2 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

indeed required no great adroitness ; it was so con- 
spicuous that failure would be the reward of an 
effective introduction of Mona. If that abhorred 
name should be properly invoked Mrs. Gereth 
would resist to the death, and before envenomed 
resistance Owen would certainly retire. His retire- 
ment would be into single life, and Fleda reflected 
that he had now gone away conscious of having 
practically told her so. She could only say as she 
waited for the back road to disgorge that she hoped 
it was a consciousness he enjoyed. There was 
something she enjoyed ; but that was a very dif- 
ferent matter. To know that she had become to 
him an object of desire gave her wings that she 
felt herself flutter in the air : it was like the rush 
of a flood into her own accumulations. These 
stored depths had been fathomless and still, but 
now, for half-an-hour, in the empty house, they 
spread till they overflowed. He seemed to have 
made it right for her to confess to herself her 
secret. Strange then there should be for him in 
return nothing that such a confession could make 
right! How could it make right that he should 
give up Mona for another woman ? His attitude 
was a sorry appeal to Fleda to legitimate that. 
But he didn't believe it himself and he had none 
of the courage of his perversity. She could easily 
see how wrong everything must be when a man 
so made to be manly was wanting in courage. 
She had upset him, as people called it, and he had 
spoken out from the force of the jar of finding her 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 113 

there. He had upset her too, heaven knew, but 
she was one of those who could pick themselves 
up. She had the real advantage, she considered, 
of having kept him from seeing that she had been 
overthrown. 

She had moreover at present completely re- 
covered her feet, though there was in the intensity 
of the effort required to do so a vibration which 
throbbed away into an immense allowance for the 
young man. How could she after all know what, 
in the disturbance wrought by his mother, Mona's 
relations with him might have become? If he had 
been able to keep his wits, such as they were, more 
about him he would probably have felt as sharply 
as she felt on his behalf that so long as those 
relations were not ended he had no right to say 
even the little he had said. He had no right to 
appear to wish to draw in another girl to help him 
to run away. If he was in a plight he must get 
out of the plight himself, he must get out of it 
first, and anything he should have to say to any 
one 'else must be deferred and detached. She 
herself, at any rate it was her own case that was 
in question couldn't dream of assisting him save 
in the sense of their common honour. She could 
never be the girl to be drawn in ; she could never 
lift her finger against Mona. There was something 
in her that would make it a shame to her forever 
to have owed her happiness to an interference. 
It would seem intolerably vulgar to her to have 
"ousted" the daughter of the Brigstocks ; and 



ii4 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

merely to have abstained even wouldn't assure 
her that she had been straight. Nothing was 
really straight but to justify her little pensioned 
presence by her use ; and now, won over as she 
was to heroism, she could see her use only as some 
high and delicate deed. She couldn't, in short, do 
anything at all unless she could do it with a kind 
of pride, and there would be nothing to be proud 
of in having arranged for poor Owen to get off 
easily. Nobody had a right to get off easily from 
pledges so deep and sacred. How could Fleda 
doubt they had been tremendous when she knew 
so well what any pledge of her own would be? If 
Mona was so formed that she could hold such vows 
light, that was Mona's peculiar business. To have 
loved Owen apparently, and yet to have loved him 
only so much, only to the extent of a few tables 
and chairs, was not a thing she could so much as 
try to grasp. Of a different manner of loving she 
was herself ready to give an instance, an instance 
of which the beauty indeed would not be generally 
known. It would not perhaps if revealed be gener- 
ally understood, inasmuch as the effect of the 
particular pressure she proposed to exercise would 
be, should success attend it, to keep him tied to 
an affection that had died a sudden and violent 
death. Even in the ardour of her meditation 
Fleda remained in sight of the truth that it would 
be an odd result of her magnanimity to prevent 
her friend's shaking off a woman he disliked. If 
he didn't dislike Mona what was the matter with 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 115 

him ? And if he did, Fleda asked, what was the 
matter with her own silly self? 

Our young lady met this branch of the tempta- 
tion it pleased her frankly to recognise by declaring 
that to encourage any such cruelty would be 
tortuous and base. She had nothing to do with 
his dislikes ; she had only to do with his good- 
nature and his good name. She had joy of him 
just as he was, but it was of these things she had 
the greatest. The worst aversion and the liveliest 
reaction moreover wouldn't alter the fact since 
one was facing facts that but the other day his 
strong arms must have clasped a remarkably hand- 
some girl as close as she had permitted. Fleda's 
emotion at this time was a wondrous mixture, 
in which Mona's permissions and Mona's beauty 
figured powerfully as aids to reflection. She her- 
self had no beauty, and her permissions were the 
stony stares she had just practised in the drawing- 
room a consciousness of a kind appreciably to 
add to the particular sense of triumph that made 
her generous. I may not perhaps too much 
diminish the merit of that generosity if I mention 
that it could take the flight we are considering just 
because really, with the telescope of her long 
thought, Fleda saw what might bring her out of 
the wood. Mona herself would bring her out ; at 
the least Mona possibly might. Deep down 
plunged the idea that even should she achieve 
what she had promised Owen there was still the 
contingency of Mona's independent action. She 



ii6 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

might by that time, under stress of temper or of 
whatever it was that was now moving her, have 
said or done the things there is no patching up. 
If the rupture should come from Waterbath they 
might all be happy yet. This was a calculation 
that Fleda wouldn't have committed to paper, but 
it affected the total of her sentiments. She was 
meanwhile so remarkably constituted that while 
she refused to profit by Owen's mistake, even while 
she judged it and hastened to cover it up, she could 
drink a sweetness from it that consorted little with 
her wishing it mightn't have been made. There 
was no harm done, because he had instinctively 
known, poor dear, with whom to make it, and it 
was a compensation for seeing him worried that he 
hadn't made it with some horrid mean girl who 
would immediately have dished him by making a 
still bigger one. Their protected error (for she 
indulged a fancy that it was hers too) was like 
some dangerous, lovely, living thing that she had 
caught and could keep keep vivid and helpless 
in the cage of her own passion and look at and 
talk to all day long. She had got it well locked 
up there by the time that from an upper window 
she saw Mrs. Gereth again in the garden. At this 
she went down to meet her. 



FLEDA'S line had been taken, her word was 
quite ready: on the terrace of the painted pots 
she broke out before her interlocutress could put 
a question. "His errand was perfectly simple: 
he came to demand that you shall pack every- 
thing straight up again and send it back as fast 
as the railway will carry it." 

The back road had apparently been fatiguing to 
Mrs. Gereth ; she rose there rather white and wan 
with her walk. A certain sharp thinness was in 
her ejaculation of " Oh ! " after which she glanced 
about her for a place to sit down. The movement 
was a criticism of the order of events that offered 
such a piece of news to a lady coming in tired ; 
but Fleda could see that in turning over the possi- 
bilities this particular peril was the one that during 
the last hour her friend had turned up oftenest. 
At the end of the short, grey day, which had been 
moist and mild, the sun was out; the terrace 
looked to the south, and a bench, formed as to 
legs and arms of iron representing knotted boughs, 
stood against the warmest wall of the house. The 
mistress of Ricks sank upon it and presented to 
M7 



Ii8 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

her companion the handsome face she had com- 
posed to hear everything. Strangely enough it 
was just this fine vessel of her attention that made 
the girl most nervous about what she must drop 
in. "Quite a 'demand,' dear, is it?" asked Mrs. 
Gereth, drawing in her cloak. 

"Oh, that's what I should call it!" Fleda 
laughed, to her own surprise. 

" I mean with the threat of enforcement and 
that sort of thing." 

"Distinctly with the threat of enforcement 
what would be called, I suppose, coercion." 

" What sort of coercion ? " said Mrs. Gereth. 

"Why, legal, don't you know? what he calls 
setting the lawyers at you." 

"Is that what he calls it?" She seemed to 
speak with disinterested curiosity. 

" That's what he calls it," said Fleda. 

Mrs. Gereth considered an instant. " Oh, the 
lawyers ! " she exclaimed lightly. Seated there 
almost cosily in the reddening winter sunset, only 
with her shoulders raised a little and her mantle 
tightened as if from a slight chill, she had never 
yet looked to Fleda so much in possession nor so 
far from meeting unsuspectedness half-way. " Is 
he going to send them down here?" 

" I dare say he thinks it may come to that." 

" The lawyers can scarcely do the packing," Mrs. 
Gereth playfully remarked, j 

" I suppose he means them in the first place at 
least to try to talk you over." 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 119 

"In the first place, eh ? And what does he mean 
in the second ? " 

Fleda hesitated; she had not foreseen that so 
simple an inquiry could disconcert her. " I'm 
afraid I don't know." 

" Didn't you ask ? " Mrs. Gereth spoke as if she 
might have said : " What then were you doing all 
the while ? " 

" I didn't ask very much," said her companion. 
" He has been gone some time. The great thing 
seemed to be to understand clearly that he 
wouldn't be content with anything less than what 
he mentioned." 

" My just giving everything back ? " 

" Your just giving everything back." 

" Well, darling, what did you tell him ? " Mrs. 
Gereth blandly inquired. 

Fleda faltered again, wincing at the term of 
endearment, at what the words took for granted, 
charged with the confidence she had now com- 
mitted herself to betray. " I told him I would tell 
you ! " She smiled, but she felt that her smile 
was rather hollow and even that Mrs. Gereth had 
begun to look at her with some fixedness. 

" Did he seem very angry ? " 

" He seemed very sad. He takes it very hard," 
Fleda added. 

" And how does she take it ? " 

" Ah, that that I felt a delicacy about asking." 

" So you didn't ask ? " The words had the note 
of surprise. 



120 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

Fleda was embarrassed ; she had not made up 
her mind definitely to lie. " I didn't think you'd 
care." That small untruth she would risk. 

"Well I don't!" Mrs. Gereth declared; and 
Fleda felt less guilty to hear her, for the statement 
was as inexact as her own. " Didn't you say any- 
thing in return ? " Mrs. Gereth presently continued. 

" Do you mean in the way of justifying you ? " 

" I didn't mean to trouble you to do that. My 
justification," said Mrs. Gereth, sitting there warmly 
and, in the lucidity of her thought, which neverthe- 
less hung back a little, dropping her eyes on the 
gravel "my justification was all the past. My 
justification was the cruelty ! " But at this, with 
a short, sharp gesture, she checked herself. " It's 
too good of me to talk now." She produced 
these sentences with a cold patience, as if address- 
ing Fleda in the girl's virtual and actual character 
of Owen's representative. Our young lady crept 
to and fro before the bench, combating the sense 
that it was occupied by a judge, looking at her 
boot-toes, reminding herself in doing so of Mona, 
and lightly crunching the pebbles as she walked. 
She moved about because she was afraid, putting 
off from moment to moment the exercise of the 
courage she had been sure she possessed. That 
courage would all come to her if she could only be 
equally sure that what she should be called upon 
to do for Owen would be to suffer. She had 
wondered, while Mrs. Gereth spoke, how that lady 
would describe her justification. She had described 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 121 

it as if to be irreproachably fair, give her adversary 
the benefit of every doubt and then dismiss the 
question for ever. " Of course," Mrs. Gereth went 
on, " if we didn't succeed in showing him at Poyn- 
ton the ground we took, it's simply that he shuts 
his eyes. What I supposed was that you would 
have given him your opinion that if I was the 
woman so signally to assert myself I'm also the 
woman to rest upon it imperturbably enough." 

Fleda stopped in front of her hostess. " I gave 
him my opinion that you're very logical, very 
obstinate and very proud." 

" Quite right, my dear : I'm a rank bigot 
about that sort of thing ! " and Mrs. Gereth jerked 
her head at the contents of the house. "I've 
never denied it. I'd kidnap to save them, to 
convert them the children of heretics. When I 
know I'm right I go to the stake. Oh, he may 
burn me alive ! " she cried with a happy face. 
" Did he abuse me ? " she then demanded. 

Fleda had remained there, gathering in her pur- 
pose. " How little you know him ! " 

Mrs. Gereth stared, then broke into a laugh that 
her companion had not expected. " Ah, my dear, 
certainly not so well as you ! " The girl, at this, 
turned away again she felt she looked too con- 
scious ; and she was aware that during a pause 
Mrs. Gereth's eyes watched her as she went. She 
faced about afresh to meet them, but what she met 
was a question that reinforced them. " Why had 
you a ' delicacy ' as to speaking of Mona ? " 



122 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

She stopped again before the bench, and an 
inspiration came to her. " I should think you 
would know," she said with proper dignity. 

Blankness was for a moment on Mrs. Gereth's 
brow ; then light broke she visibly remembered 
the scene in the breakfast-room after Mona's night 
at Poynton. " Because I contrasted you told him 
you were the one ? " Her eyes looked deep. " You 
were you are still ! " 

Fleda gave a bold dramatic laugh. "Thank 
you, my love with all the best things at Ricks ! " 

Mrs. Gereth considered, trying to penetrate, as 
it seemed ; but at last she brought out roundly : 
" For you, you know, I'd send them back ! " 

The girl's heart gave a tremendous bound ; the 
right way dawned upon her in a flash. Obscurity 
indeed the next moment engulfed this course, but 
for a few thrilled seconds she had understood. To 
send the things back "for her" meant of course 
to send them back if there were even a dim chance 
that she might become mistress of them. Fleda's 
palpitation was not allayed as she asked herself 
what portent Mrs. Gereth had suddenly perceived 
of such a chance : that perception could come only 
from a sudden suspicion of her secret. This sus- 
picion in turn was a tolerably straight consequence 
of that implied view of the propriety of surrender 
from which, she was well aware, she could say 
nothing to dissociate herself. What she first felt 
was that if she wished to rescue the spoils she 
wished also to rescue her secret. So she looked as 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 123 

innocent as she could and said as quickly as 
possible : " For me ? Why in the world for 
me?" 

" Because you're so awfully keen." 

" Am I ? Do I strike you so ? You know I 
hate him," Fleda went on. 

She had the sense for a while of Mrs. Gereth's 
regarding her with the detachment of some stern, 
clever stranger. "Then what's the matter with 
you ? Why do you want me to give in ? " 

Fleda hesitated ; she felt herself reddening. 
" I've only said your son wants it. I haven't said 
/ do." 

" Then say it and have done with it ! " 

This was more peremptory than any word her 
friend, though often speaking in her presence with 
much point, had ever yet deliberately addressed her. 
It affected her like the crack of a whip, but she 
confined herself with an effort to taking it as a 
reminder that she must keep her head. "I know 
he has his engagement to carry out." 

" His engagement to marry ? Why, it's just 
that engagement we loathe ! " 

" Why should / loathe it ? " Fleda asked with a 
strained smile. Then before Mrs. Gereth could 
reply she pursued : " I'm thinking of his general 
undertaking to give her the house as she origin- 
ally saw it." 

" To give her the house ! " Mrs. Gereth brought 
up the words from the depth of the unspeakable. 
The effect was like the moan of an autumn wind ; 



124 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

it was in the power of such an image to make her 
turn pale. 

"I'm thinking," Fleda continued, "of the simple 
question of his keeping faith on an important 
clause of his contract : it doesn't matter whether 
it's with a stupid person or with a monster of 
cleverness. I'm thinking of his honour and his 
good name." 

"The honour and good name of a man you 
hate?" 

"Certainly," the girl resolutely answered. "I 
don't see why you should talk as if one had a 
petty mind. You don't think so. It's not on that 
assumption you've ever dealt with me. I can do 
your son justice, as he put his case to me." 

" Ah, then he did put his case to you ! " Mrs. 
Gereth exclaimed with an accent of triumph. 
"You seemed to speak just now as if really 
nothing of any consequence had passed between 
you." 

" Something always passes when one has a little 
imagination," our young lady declared. 

" I take it you don't mean that Owen has any ! " 
Mrs. Gereth cried with her large laugh. 

Fleda was silent a moment. " No, I don't mean 
that Owen has any," she returned at last. 

" Why is it you hate him so ? " her hostess 
abruptly put to her. 

"Should I love him for all he has made you 
suffer?" 

Mrs. Gereth slowly rose at this and, coming 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 125 

over the walk, took her young friend to her breast 
and kissed her. She then passed into one of 
Fleda's an arm perversely and imperiously soci- 
able. " Let us move a little," she said, holding her 
close and giving a slight shiver. They strolled 
along the terrace and she brought out another 
question. " He was eloquent, then, poor dear 
he poured forth the story of his wrongs ? " 

Fleda smiled down at her companion, who, 
cloaked and perceptibly bowed, leaned on her 
heavily and gave her an odd, unwonted sense of 
age and cunning. She took refuge in an evasion. 
" He couldn't tell me anything that I didn't know 
pretty well already." 

" It's very true that you know everything. No, 
dear, you haven't a petty mind ; you've a lovely 
imagination and you're the nicest creature in the 
world. If you were inane, like most girls like 
every one in fact I would have insulted you, I 
would have outraged you, and then you would 
have fled from me in terror. No, now that I think 
of it," Mrs. Gereth went on, "you wouldn't have 
fled from me : nothing, on the contrary, would 
have made you budge. You would have cuddled 
into your warm corner, but you would have been 
wounded and weeping and martyrised, and you 
would have taken every opportunity to tell people 
I'm a brute as indeed I should have been ! " 
They went to and fro, and she would not allow 
Fleda, who laughed and protested, to attenuate 
with any light civiltiy this spirited picture. She 



126 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

praised her cleverness and her patience ; then she 
said it was getting cold and dark and they must go 
in to tea. She delayed quitting the place, how- 
ever, and reverted instead to Owen's ultimatum, 
about which she asked another question or two; 
in particular whether it had struck Fleda that he 
really believed she would comply with such a 
summons. 

"I think he really believes that if I try hard 
enough I can make you : " after uttering which 
words our young lady stopped short and emulated 
the embrace she had received a few moments 
before. 

" And you've promised to try : I see. You 
didn't tell me that either," Mrs. Gereth added as 
they moved. " But you're rascal enough for any- 
thing ! " While Fleda was occupied in thinking in 
what terms she could explain why she had indeed 
been rascal enough for the reticence thus de- 
nounced, her companion broke out with an inquiry 
somewhat irrelevant and even in form somewhat 
profane. "Why the devil, at any rate, doesn't it 
come off?" 

Fleda hesitated. " You mean their marriage ? " 

" Of course I mean their marriage ! " 

Fleda hesitated again. " I haven't the least 
idea." 

"You didn't ask him?" 

" Oh, how in the world can you fancy ? " She 
spoke in a shocked tone. 

"Fancy your putting a question so indelicate? 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 127 

7 should have put it I mean in your place ; but 
I'm quite coarse, thank God ! " Fleda felt privately 
that she herself was coarse, or at any rate would 
presently have to be ; and Mrs. Gereth, with a 
purpose that struck her as increasing, continued : 
" What, then, was the day to be ? Wasn't it just 
one of these ? " 

" I'm sure I don't remember." 

It was part of the great rupture and an effect 
of Mrs. Gereth's character that up to this moment 
she had been completely and haughtily indifferent 
to that detail. Now, however, she had a visible 
reason for being sure. She bethought herself and 
she broke out : " Isn't the day past ? " Then 
stopping short she added : " Upon my word they 
must have put it off!" As Fleda made no answer 
to this she sharply pursued : " Have they put 
it off?" 

" I haven't the least idea," said the girl. 

Her hostess was again looking at her hard. 
" Didn't he tell you didn't he say anything about 
it?" 

Fleda meanwhile had had time to make her 
reflections, which were moreover the continued 
throb of those that had occupied the interval 
between Owen's departure and his mother's return. 
If she should now repeat his words this wouldn't 
at all play the game of her definite vow ; it would 
only play the game of her little gagged and 
blinded desire. She could calculate well enough 
the result of telling Mrs. Gereth how she had had 



128 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

it from Owen's troubled lips that Mona was only 
waiting for the restitution and would do nothing 
without it. The thing was to obtain the restitution 
without imparting that knowledge. The only way 
also not to impart it was not to tell any truth at 
all about it ; and the only way to meet this last 
condition was to reply to her companion, as she 
presently did : " He told me nothing whatever. 
He didn't touch on the subject." 

" Not in any way ? " 

" Not in any way." 

Mrs. Gereth watched Fleda and considered. 
" You haven't any idea if they are waiting for the 
things ? " 

" How should I have ? I'm not in their counsels." 

" I dare say they are or that Mona is." Mrs. 
Gereth reflected again ; she had a bright idea. 
" If I don't give in I'll be hanged if she'll not 
break off." 

" She'll never, never break off," said Fleda. 

" Are you sure ? " 

" I can't be sure, but it's my belief." 

"Derived from him?" 

The girl hung fire a few seconds. "Derived 
from him." 

Mrs. Gereth gave her a long last look, then 
turned abruptly away. " It's an awful bore you 
didn't really get it out of him ! Well, come to 
tea," she added rather dryly, passing straight into 
the house. 



XI 

THE sense of her dryness, which was ominous 
of a complication, made Fleda, before complying, 
linger a little on the terrace : she felt the need 
moreover of taking breath after such a flight into 
the cold air of denial. When at last she rejoined 
Mrs. Gereth she found her erect before the drawing- 
room fire. Their tea had been set out in the same 
quarter, and the mistress of the house, for whom 
the preparation of it was in general a high and 
undelegated function, was in an attitude to which 
the hissing urn made no appeal. This omission, 
for Fleda, was such a further sign of something 
to come that, to disguise her apprehension, she 
immediately and without apology took the duty in 
hand ; only however to be promptly reminded that 
she was performing it confusedly and not counting 
the journeys of the little silver shovel she emptied 
into the pot. " Not jfe?, my dear the usual three," 
said her hostess with the same reserve ; watching 
her then in silence while she clumsily corrected her 
mistake. The tea took some minutes to draw, and 

Mrs. Gereth availed herself of them suddenly to 

129 K 



130 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

exclaim : " You haven't yet told me, you know, 
how it is you propose to ' make ' me ! " 

" Give everything back ? " Fleda looked into 
the pot again and uttered her question with a 
briskness that she felt to be a trifle overdone. 
" Why, by putting the question well before you ; 
by being so eloquent that I shall persuade you, 
shall act upon you ; by making you sorry for 
having gone so far," she said boldly. " By simply 
and earnestly asking it of you, in short ; and by 
reminding you at the same time that it's the first 
thing I ever have so asked. Oh, you've done 
things for me endless and beautiful things," she 
exclaimed ; " but you've done them all from your 
own generous impulse. I've never so much as 
hinted to you to lend me a postage-stamp." 

" Give me a cup of tea," said Mrs. Gereth. A 
moment later, taking the cup, she replied : " No, 
you've never asked me for a postage-stamp." 

" That gives me a pull ! " Fleda returned, with 
a smile. 

" Puts you in the situation of expecting that I 
shall do this thing just simply to oblige you ? " 

The girl hesitated. " You said a while ago that 
for me you would do it." 

" For you, but not for your eloquence. Do you 
understand what I mean by the difference ? " Mrs. 
Gereth asked as she stood stirring her tea. 

Fleda, to postpone answering, looked round, 
while she drank it, at the beautiful room. " I don't 
in the least like, you know, your having taken so 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 131 

much. It was a great shock to me, on my arrival 
here, to find you had done so." 

" Give me some more tea," said Mrs. Gereth ; 
and there was a moment's silence as Fleda poured 
out another cup. "If you were shocked, my dear, 
I'm bound to say you concealed your shock." 

" I know I did. I was afraid to show it." 

Mrs. Gereth drank off her second cup. " And 
you're not afraid now ? " 

" No, I'm not afraid now." 

" What has made the difference ? " 

" I've pulled myself together." Fleda paused ; 
then she added : "And I've seen Mr. Owen." 4 

"You've seen Mr. Owen" Mrs. Gereth con- 
curred. She put down her cup and sank into a 
chair, in which she leaned back, resting her head 
and gazing at her young friend. " Yes, I did tell 
you a while ago that for you I'd do it. But you 
haven't told me yet what you'll do in return." 

Fleda thought an instant. "Anything in the 
wide world you may require." 

" Oh, * anything ' is nothing at all ! That's too 
easily said." Mrs. Gereth, reclining more com- 
pletely, closed her eyes with an air of disgust, an 
air indeed of inviting slumber. 

Fleda looked at her quiet face, which the ap- 
pearance of slumber always made particularly 
handsome ; she noted how much the ordeal of the 
last few weeks had added to its indications of age. 
"Well then, try me with something. What is it 
you demand?" 



132 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

At this, opening her eyes, Mrs. Gereth sprang 
straight up. " Get him away from her ! " 

Fleda marvelled : her companion had in an 
instant become young again. "Away from Mona? 
How in the world ? " 

" By not looking like a fool ! " cried Mrs. Gereth 
very sharply. She kissed her, however, on the 
spot, to make up for this roughness, and with an 
officious hand took off the hat which, on coming 
into the house, our young lady had not removed- 
She applied a friendly touch to the girl's hair and 
gave a business-like pull to her jacket. " I say 
don't look like an idiot, because you happen not 
to be one, not the least bit. Pm idiotic ; I've 
been so, I've just discovered, ever since our first 
days together. I've been a precious donkey ; but 
that's another affair." 

Fleda, as if she humbly assented, went through 
no form of controverting this ; she simply stood 
passive to her companion's sudden refreshment of 
the charms of her person. " How can I get him 
away from her? " she presently demanded. 

" By letting yourself go." 

" By letting myself go ? " She spoke mechani- 
cally, still more like an idiot, and felt as if her face 
flamed out the insincerity of her question. It was 
vividly back again, the vision of the real way to 
act on Mrs. Gereth. This lady's movements were 
now rapid ; she turned off from her as quickly as 
she had seized her, and Fleda sat down to steady 
herself for full responsibility. 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 133 

Her hostess, without taking up her ejaculation, 
gave a violent poke at the fire and then faced her 
again. "You've done two things, then, to-day 
haven't you? that you've never done before. 
One has been asking me the service or favour or 
concession whatever you call it that you just 
mentioned; the other has been telling me cer- 
tainly too for the first time an immense little 
fib." 

" An immense little fib ? " Fleda felt weak ; she 
was glad of the support of her seat. 

" An immense big one then ! " said Mrs. Gereth 
irritatedly. " You don't in the least * hate ' Owen, 
my darling. You care for him very much. In 
fact, my own, you're in love with him there ! 
Don't tell me any more lies ! " cried Mrs. Gereth 
with a voice and a face in the presence of which 
Fleda recognised that there was nothing for her 
but to hold herself and take them. When once 
the truth was out it was out, and she could see 
more and more every instant that it would be the 
only way. She accepted therefore what had to 
come ; she leaned back her head and closed her 
eyes as her companion had done just before. She 
would have covered her face with her hands but 
for the still greater shame. " Oh, you're a wonder, 
a wonder," said Mrs. Gereth ; " you're magnificent, 
and I was right, as soon as I saw you, to pick you 
out and trust you ! " Fleda closed her eyes tighter 
at this last word, but her friend kept it up. " I 
never dreamed of it till a while ago, when, after he 



134 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

had come and gone, we were face to face. Then 
something stuck out of you ; it strongly impressed 
me, and I didn't know at first quite what to make 
of it. It was that you had just been with him and 
that you were not natural. Not natural to me" 
she added with a smile. " I pricked up my ears, 
and all that this might mean dawned upon me 
when you said you had asked nothing about Mona. 
It put me on the scent, but I didn't show you, did 
I ? I felt it was in you, deep down, and that I 
must draw it out. Well, I have drawn it, and it's 
a blessing. Yesterday, when you shed tears at 
breakfast, I was awfully puzzled. What has been 
the matter with you all the while ? Why, Fleda, 
it isn't a crime, don't you know that?" cried the 
delighted woman. "When I was a girl I was 
always in love, and not always with such nice 
people as Owen. I didn't behave as well as you ; 
compared with you I think I must have been 
odious. But if you're proud and reserved it's your 
own affair ; I'm proud too, though I'm not reserved 
that's what spoils it. I'm stupid, above all 
that's what I am ; so dense that I really blush for 
it. However, no one but you could have deceived 
me. If I trusted you moreover, it was exactly to 
be cleverer than myself. You must be so now 
more than ever ! " Suddenly Fleda felt her hands 
grasped : Mrs. Gereth had plumped down at her 
feet and was leaning on her knees. " Save him 
save him : you can ! " she passionately pleaded. 
" How could you not like him when he's such a 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 135 

dear ? He is a dear, darling ; there's no harm in 
my own boy ! You can do what you will with him 
you know you can ! What else does he give us 
all this time for ? Get him away from her : it's as 
if he besought you to, poor wretch ! Don't abandon 
him to such a fate, and I'll never abandon you. 
Think of him with that creature, that future ! If 
you'll take him I'll give up everything. There, it's 
a solemn promise, the most sacred of my life. Get 
the better of her and he shall have every stick I 
removed. Give me your word and I'll accept it. 
I'll write for the packers to-night ! " 

Fleda, before this, had fallen forward on her 
companion's neck, and the two women, clinging 
together, had got up while the younger wailed on 
the other's bosom. " You smooth it down because 
you see more in it than there can ever be ; but 
after my hideous double game how will you be 
able to believe in me again?" 

" I see in it simply what must be, if you've a 
single spark of pity. Where on earth was the 
double game, when you've behaved like such a 
saint ? You've been beautiful, you've been ex- 
quisite, and all our trouble is over." 

Fleda, drying her eyes, shook her head ever so 
sadly. " No, Mrs. Gereth, it isn't over. I can't do 
what you ask I can't meet your condition." 

Mrs. Gereth stared ; the cloud gathered in her 
face again. " Why, in the name of goodness, when 
you adore him ? I know what you see in him," she 
declared in another tone. " You'r-e quite right ! " 



136 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

Fleda gave a faint, stubborn smile. " He cares 
for her too much." 

" Then why doesn't he marry her ? He's giving 
you an extraordinary chance." 

" He doesn't dream I've ever thought of him," 
said Fleda. " Why should he, if you didn't ? " 

" It wasn't with me you were in love, my duck." 
Then Mrs. Gereth added : " I'll go and tell him." 

"If you do any such thing you shall never see 
me again absolutely, literally never ! " 

Mrs. Gereth looked hard at her young friend, 
betraying that she saw she must believe her. 
" Then you're perverse, you're wicked. Will you 
swear he doesn't know ? " 

"Of course he doesn't know!" cried Fleda 
indignantly. 

Her interlocutress was silent a little. " And 
that he has no feeling on his side ? " 

" For me ? " Fleda stared. " Before he has even 
married her ? " 

Mrs. Gereth gave a sharp laugh at this. " He 
ought at least to appreciate your wit. Oh, my 
dear, you are a treasure ! Doesn't he appreciate 
anything? Has he given you absolutely no 
symptom not looked a look, not breathed a 
sigh ? " 

" The case," said Fleda coldly, " is as I've had 
the honour to state it." 

" Then he's as big a donkey as his mother ! But 
you know you must account for their delay," Mrs. 
Gereth remarked. 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 137 

" Why must I ? " Fleda asked after a moment. 

" Because you were closeted with him here so 
long. You can't pretend at present, you know, 
not to have any art." 

The girl hesitated an instant ; she was conscious 
that she must choose between two risks. She had 
had a secret and the secret was gone. Owen had 
one, which was still unbruised, and the greater risk 
now was that his mother should lay her formidable 
hand upon it. All Fleda's tenderness for him 
moved her to protect it ; so she faced the smaller 
peril. " Their delay," she brought herself to reply, 
" may perhaps be Mona's doing. I mean because 
he has lost her the things." 

Mrs. Gereth jumped at this. " So that she'll 
break altogether if I keep them ? " 

Fleda winced. " I've told you what I believe 
about that. She'll make scenes and conditions ; 
she'll worry him. But she'll hold him fast ; she'll 
never give him up." 

Mrs. Gereth turned it over. "Well, I'll keep 
them to try her," she finally pronounced ; at which 
Fleda felt quite sick, as if to have given everything 
and got nothing. 



XII 



" I MUST in common decency let him know that 
I've talked of the matter with you," she said to her. 
hostess that evening. " What answer do you wish 
me to write to him ? " 

"Write to him that you must see him again," 
said Mrs. Gereth. 

Fleda looked very blank. " What on earth am 
I to see him for ? " 

" For anything you like ! " 

The girl would have been struck with the levity 
of this had she not already, in an hour, felt the 
extent of the change suddenly wrought in her 
commerce with her friend wrought above all, to 
that friend's view, in her relation to the great issue. 
The effect of what had followed Owen's visit was 
to make this relation the very key of the crisis. 
Pressed upon her, goodness knew, the crisis had 
been, but it now seemed to put forth big encircling 
arms arms that squeezed till they hurt and she 
must cry out. It was as if everything at Ricks had 
been poured into a common receptacle, a public 
ferment of emotion and zeal, out of which it was 

ladled up to be tasted and talked about ; everything 

138 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 139 

at least but the one little treasure of knowledge 
that she kept back. She ought to have liked this, 
she reflected, because it meant sympathy, meant a 
closer union with the source of so much in her life 
that had been beautiful and renovating ; but there 
were fine instincts in her that stood off. She had 
had and it was not merely at this time to recog- 
nise that there were things for which Mrs. Gereth s 
flair was not so happy as for bargains and " marks." 
It wouldn't be happy now as to the best action on 
the knowledge she had just gained ; yet as from 
this moment they were still more intimately to- 
gether, so a person deeply in her debt would simply 
have to stand and meet what was to come. There 
were ways in which she could sharply incommode 
such a person, and not only with the best conscience 
in the world, but with a sort of brutality of good 
intentions. One of the straightest of these strokes, 
Fleda saw, would be the dance of delight over the 
mystery Mrs. Gereth had laid bare the loud, law- 
ful, tactless joy of the explorer leaping upon the 
strand. Like any other lucky discoverer she would 
take possession of the fortunate island. She was 
nothing if not practical : almost the only thing she 
took account of in her young friend's soft secret 
was the excellent use she could make of it a use 
so much to her taste that she refused to feel a 
hindrance in the quality of the material. Fleda 
put into Mrs. Gereth's answer to her question a 
good deal more meaning than it would have 
occurred to her a few hours before that she was 



140 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

prepared to put, but she had on the spot a fore- 
boding that even so broad a hint would live to be 
bettered. 

" Do you suggest that I shall propose to him to 
come down here again ? " she presently inquired. 

" Dear, no ; say that you'll go up to town and 
meet him." It was bettered, the broad hint ; and 
Fleda felt this to be still more the case when, 
returning to the subject before they went to bed, 
her companion said : " I make him over to you 
wholly, you know to do what you please with. 
Deal with him in your own clever way I ask no 
questions. All I ask is that you succeed." 

" That's charming," Fleda replied, " but it doesn't 
tell me a bit, you'll be so good as to consider, in 
what terms to write to him. It's not an answer 
from you to the message I was to give you." 

" The answer to his message is perfectly distinct : 
he shall have everything in the place the minute 
he'll say he'll marry you." 

" You really pretend," Fleda asked, " to think me 
capable of transmitting him that news ? " 

"What else can I really pretend, when you 
threaten so to cast me off if I speak the word 
myself?" 

" Oh, if you speak the word ! " the girl murmured 
very gravely, but happy at least to know that in 
this direction Mrs. Gereth confessed herself warned 
and helpless. Then she added : " How can I go 
on living with you on a footing of which I so 
deeply disapprove ? Thinking as I do that you've 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 141 

despoiled him far more than is just or merciful 
for if I expected you to take something I didn't in 
the least expect you to take everything how can 
I stay here without a sense that I am backing you 
up in your cruelty and participating in your ill- 
gotten gains ? " Fleda was determined that if she 
had the chill of her exposed and investigated state 
she would also have the convenience of it, and that 
if Mrs. Gereth popped in and out of the chamber 
of her soul she would at least return the freedom. 
" I shall quite hate, you know, in a day or two, 
every object that surrounds you become blind to 
all the beauty and rarity that I formerly delighted 
in. Don't think me harsh ; there's no use in my 
not being frank now. If I leave you, everything's 
at an end." 

Mrs. Gereth, however, was imperturbable : Fleda 
had to recognise that her advantage had become 
too real. " It's too beautiful, the way you care for 
him ; it's music in my ears. Nothing else but 
such a passion could make you say such things ; 
that's the way I should have been too, my dear. 
Why didn't you tell me sooner? I'd have gone 
right in for you ; I never would have moved a 
candlestick. Don't stay with me if it torments 
you : don't, if you suffer, be where you see the old 
rubbish. Go up to town go back for a little to 
your father's. It need be only for a little ; two or 
three weeks will see us through. Your father will 
take you and be glad, if you only will make him 
understand what it's a question of of your getting 



142 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

yourself off his hands forever. Pll make him 
understand, you know, if you feel shy. I'd take 
you up myself, I'd go with you, to spare your being 
bored : we'd put up at an hotel and we might 
amuse ourselves a bit. We haven't had much 
pleasure since we met, have we ? But of course 
that wouldn't suit our book. I should be a buga- 
boo to Owen I should be fatally in the way. 
Your chance is there your chance is to be alone. 
For God's sake use it to the right end. If you're 
in want of money I've a little I can give you. But 
I ask no questions not a question as small as 
your shoe ! " 

She asked no questions, but she took the most 
extraordinary things for granted : Fleda felt this 
still more at the end of a couple of days. On the 
second of these our young lady wrote to Owen : 
her emotion had to a certain degree cleared itself 
there was something she could briefly say. If she 
had given everything to Mrs. Gereth and as yet got 
nothing, so she had on the other hand quickly 
reacted it took but a night against the dis- 
couragement of her first check. Her desire to 
serve him was too passionate, the sense that he 
counted upon her too sweet : these things caught 
her up again and gave her a new patience and a 
new subtlety. It shouldn't really be for nothing 
that she had given so much ; deep within her 
burned again the resolve to get something back. 
So what she wrote to Owen was simply that she 
had had a great scene with his mother, but that he 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 143 

must be patient and give her time. It was difficult, 
as they both had expected, but she was working 
her hardest for him. She had made an impression 
she would do everything to follow it up. Mean- 
while he must keep intensely quiet and take no 
other steps ; he must only trust her and pray for 
her and believe in her perfect loyalty. She made 
no allusion whatever to Mona's attitude, nor to his 
not being, as regarded that young lady, master of 
the situation ; but she said in a postscript, in refer- 
ence to his mother, " Of course she wonders a good 
deal why your marriage doesn't take place." After 
the letter had gone she regretted having used the 
word " loyalty " ; there were two or three milder 
terms which she might as well have employed. 
The answer she immediately received from Owen 
was a little note of which she met all the deficiencies 
by describing it to herself as pathetically simple, 
but which, to prove that Mrs. Gereth might ask as 
many questions as she liked, she at once made his 
mother read. He had no art with his pen, he had 
not even a good hand, and his letter, a short pro- 
fession of friendly confidence, consisted of but a 
few familiar and colourless words of acknowledg- 
ment and assent. The gist of it was that he would 
certainly, since Miss Vetch recommended it, not 
hurry mamma too much. He would not for the 
present cause her to be approached by any one 
else, but he would nevertheless continue to hope 
that she would see she must come round. "Of 
course, you know," he added, " she can't keep me 



144 THE SPOILS O.F POYNTON 

waiting indefinitely. Please give her my love and 
tell her that. If it can be done peaceably I know 
you're just the one to do it." 

Fleda had awaited his rejoinder in deep sus- 
pense ; such was her imagination of the possibility 
of his having, as she tacitly phrased it, let himself 
go on paper that when it arrived she was at first 
almost afraid to open it. There was indeed a 
distinct danger, for if he should take it into his 
head to write her love-letters the whole chance of 
aiding him would drop : she would have to return 
them, she would have to decline all further com- 
munication with him ; it would be quite the end of 
the business. This imagination of Fleda's was a 
faculty that easily embraced all the heights and 
depths and extremities of things ; that made a 
single mouthful in particular of any tragic or 
desperate necessity. She was perhaps at first 
just a trifle disappointed not to find in the note in 
question a syllable that strayed from the text ; but 
the next moment she had risen to a point of view 
from which it presented itself as a production 
almost inspired in its simplicity. It was simple 
even for Owen, and she wondered what had given 
him the cue to be more so than usual. Then she 
saw how natures that are right just do the things 
that are right. He wasn't clever his manner of 
writing showed it ; but the cleverest man in Eng- 
land couldn't have had more the instinct that, under 
the circumstances, was the supremely happy one, 
the instinct of giving her something that would do 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 145 

beautifully to be shown to Mrs. Gereth. This was 
a kind of divination, for naturally he couldn't know 
the line Mrs. Gereth was taking. It was further- 
more explained and that was the most touching 
part of all by his wish that she herself should 
notice how awfully well he was behaving. His 
very bareness called her attention to his virtue ; 
and these were the exact fruits of her beautiful and 
terrible admonition. He was cleaving to Mona ; 
he was doing his duty ; he was making tremen- 
dously sure he should be without reproach. 

If Fleda handed this communication to her 
friend as a triumphant gage of the innocence of the 
young man's heart, her elation lived but a moment 
after Mrs. Gereth had pounced upon the tell-tale 
spot in it. "Why in the world, then," that lady 
cried, " does he still not breathe a breath about the 
day, the day^ the DAY?" She repeated the word 
with a crescendo of superior acuteness ; she pro- 
claimed that nothing could be more marked than 
its absence an absence that simply spoke volumes. 
What did it prove in fine but that she was pro- 
ducing the effect she had toiled for that she had 
settled or was rapidly settling Mona ? 

Such a challenge Fleda was obliged in some 
manner to take up. " You may be settling Mona," 
she returned with a smile, " but I can hardly regard 
it as sufficient evidence that you're settling Mona's 
lover." 

" Why not, with such a studied omission on his 
part to gloss over in any manner the painful tension 



I 4 6 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

existing between them the painful tension that, 
under Providence, I've been the means of bringing 
about? He gives you by his silence clear notice 
that his marriage is practically off." 

" He speaks to me of the only thing that con- 
cerns me. He gives me clear notice that he abates 
not one jot of his demand." 

" Well, then, let him take the only way to get it 
satisfied." , > 

Fleda had no need to ask again what such a 
way might be, nor was her support removed by the 
fine assurance with which Mrs. Gereth could make 
her argument wait upon her wish. These days, 
which dragged their length into a strange, un- 
comfortable fortnight, had already borne more 
testimony to that element than all the other time 
the two women had passed together. Our young 
lady had been at first far from measuring the 
whole of a feature that Owen himself would pro- 
bably have described as her companion's " cheek." 
She lived now in a kind of bath of boldness, felt 
as if a fierce light poured in upon her from windows 
opened wide ; and the singular part of the ordeal 
was that she couldn't protest against it fully with- 
out incurring even to her own mind some reproach 
of ingratitude, some charge of smallness. If Mrs. 
Gereth's apparent determination to hustle her into 
Owen's arms was accompanied with an air of hold- 
ing her dignity rather cheap, this was after all only 
as a consequence of her being held in respect to 
some other attributes rather dear. It was a new 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 147 

version of the old story of being kicked up-stairs. 
The wonderful woman was the same woman who, 
in the summer, at Poynton, had been so puzzled 
to conceive why a good-natured girl shouldn't have 
contributed more to the personal rout of the Brig- 
stocks shouldn't have been grateful even for the 
handsome puff of Fleda Vetch. Only her passion 
was keener now and her scruple more absent ; the 
fight made a demand upon her, and her pugnacity 
had become one with her constant habit of using 
such weapons as she could pick up. She had no 
imagination about anybody's life save on the side 
she bumped against. Fleda was quite aware that 
she would have otherwise been a rare creature ; 
but a rare creature was originally just what she 
had struck her as being. Mrs. Gereth had really 
no perception of anybody's nature had only one 
question about persons : were they clever or stupid ? 
To be clever meant to know the marks. Fleda 
knew them by direct inspiration, and a warm 
recognition of this had been her friend's tribute to 
her character. The girl had hours now of sombre 
wishing that she might never see anything good 
again : that kind of experience was evidently not 
an infallible source of peace. She would be more 
at peace in some vulgar little place that should owe 
its cachet to a Universal Provider. There were 
nice strong horrors in West Kensington ; it was as 
if they beckoned her and wooed her back to them. 
She had a relaxed recollection of Waterbath ; and 
of her reasons for staying on at Ricks the force was 



148 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

rapidly ebbing. One of these was her pledge to 
Owen her vow to press his mother close ; the 
other was the fact that of the two discomforts, that 
of being prodded by Mrs. Gereth and that of 
appearing to run after somebody else, the former 
remained for a while the more endurable. 

As the days passed, however, it became plainer 
to Fleda that her only chance of success would be 
in lending herself to this low appearance. Then 
moreover, at last, her nerves settling the question, 
the choice was simply imposed by the violence 
done to her taste to whatever was left of that 
high principle, at least, after the free and reckless 
meeting, for months, of great drafts and appeals. 
It was all very well to try to evade discussion : 
Owen Gereth was looking to her for a struggle, 
and it wasn't a bit of a struggle to be disgusted 
and dumb. She was on too strange a footing 
that of having presented an ultimatum and having 
had it torn up in her face. In such a case as that 
the envoy always departed ; he never sat gaping 
and dawdling before the city. Mrs. Gereth every 
morning looked publicly into The Morning Post, 
the only newspaper she received ; and every morn- 
ing she treated the blankness of that journal as 
fresh evidence that everything was " off." What 
did the Post exist for but to tell you your children 
were wretchedly married ? so that if such a source 
of misery was dry what could you do but infer 
that for once you had miraculously escaped ? She 
almost taunted Fleda with supineness in not getting 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 149 

something out of somebody in the same breath 
indeed in which she drenched her with a kind of 
appreciation more onerous to the girl than blame. 
Mrs. Gereth herself had of course washed her hands 
of the matter; but Fleda knew people who knew 
Mona and would be sure to be in her confidence 
inconceivable people who admired her and had the 
" entree " of Waterbath. What was the use there- 
fore of being the most natural and the easiest of 
letter-writers if no sort of side-light in some pre- 
text for correspondence was, by a brilliant crea- 
ture, to be got out of such barbarians ? Fleda was 
not only a brilliant creature, but she heard herself 
commended in these days for attractions new and 
strange ; she figured suddenly in the queer con- 
versations of Ricks as a distinguished, almost as 
a dangerous beauty. That retouching of her hair 
and dress in which her friend had impulsively in- 
dulged on a first glimpse of her secret was by 
implication very frequently repeated. She had the 
sense not only of being advertised and offered, but 
of being counselled and enlightened in ways that 
she scarcely understood arts obscure even to a 
poor girl who had had, in good society and mother- 
less poverty, to look straight at realities and fill 
out blanks. 

These arts, when Mrs. Gereth's spirits were high, 
were handled with a brave and cynical humour 
with which Fleda's fancy could keep no step : they 
left our young lady wondering what on earth her 
companion wanted her to do. " I want you to cut 



ISO THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

in ! " that was Mrs. Gereth's familiar and com- 
prehensive phrase for the course she prescribed. 
She challenged again and again Fleda's picture, as 
she called it (though the sketch was too slight to 
deserve the name), of the indifference to which a 
prior attachment had committed the proprietor of 
Poynton. " Do you mean to say that, Mona or no 
Mona, he could see you that way, day after day, 
and not have the ordinary feelings of a man? 
Don't you know a little more, you absurd, affected 
thing, what men are, the brutes?" This was the 
sort of interrogation to which Fleda was fitfully 
and irrelevantly treated. She had grown almost 
used to the refrain. " Do you mean to say that 
when, the other day, one had quite made you over 
to him, the great gawk, and he was, on this very 
spot, utterly alone with you ? " The poor girl at 
this point never left any doubt of what she meant 
to say ; but Mrs. Gereth could be trusted to break 
out in another place and at another time. At last 
Fleda wrote to her father that he must take her in 
for a while ; and when, to her companion's delight, 
she returned to London, that lady went with her 
to the station and wafted her on her way. The 
Morning Post had been delivered as they left the 
house, and Mrs. Gereth had brought it with her for 
the traveller, who never spent a penny on a news- 
paper. On the platform, however, when this young 
person was ticketed, labelled and seated, she opened 
it at the window of the carriage, exclaiming as 
usual, after looking into it a moment, " Nothing 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 151 

nothing nothing: don't tell me!" Every day 
that there was nothing was a nail in the coffin of 
the marriage. An instant later the train was off, 
but, moving quickly beside it, while Fleda leaned 
inscrutably forth, Mrs. Gereth grasped her friend's 
hand and looked up with wonderful eyes. " Only 
let yourself go, darling only let yourself go ! " 



XIII 

THAT she desired to ask no prudish questions 
Mrs. Gereth conscientiously proved by closing her 
lips tight after Fleda had gone to London. No 
letter from Ricks arrived at West Kensington, and 
Fleda, with nothing to communicate that could 
be to the taste of either party, forbore to open a 
correspondence. If her heart had been less heavy 
she might have been amused to perceive how much 
free rope this reticence of Ricks seemed to signify 
to her that she could take. She had at all events 
no good news for her friend save in the sense that 
her silence was not bad news. She was not yet 
in a position to write that she had " cut in " ; but 
neither, on the other hand, had she gathered 
material for announcing that Mona was undis- 
severable from her prey. She had made no use of 
the pen so glorified by Mrs. Gereth to wake up the 
echoes of Waterbath ; she had sedulously abstained 
from inquiring what in any quarter, far or near, 
was said or suggested or supposed. She only spent 
a matutinal penny on The Morning Post; she only 
saw, on each occasion, that that inspired sheet had 

as little to say about the imminence as about the 

152 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 153 

abandonment of certain nuptials. It was at the 
same time obvious that Mrs. Gereth triumphed on 
these occasions much more than she trembled, and 
that with a few such triumphs repeated she would 
cease to tremble at all. What was most manifest, 
however, was that she had had a rare preconception 
of the circumstances that would have ministered, 
had Fleda been disposed, to the girl's cutting in. 
It was brought home to Fleda that these circum- 
stances would have particularly favoured interven- 
tion ; she was quickly forced to do them a secret 
justice. One of the effects of her intimacy with 
Mrs. Gereth was that she had quite lost all sense 
of intimacy with any one else. The lady of Ricks 
had made a desert around her, possessing and ab- 
sorbing her so utterly that other partakers had 
fallen away. Hadn't she been admonished, months 
before, that people considered they had lost her 
and were reconciled on the whole to the privation ? 
Her present position in the great unconscious town 
defined itself as obscure : she regarded it at any 
rate with eyes suspicious of that lesson. She 
neither wrote notes nor received them; she in- 
dulged in no reminders nor knocked at any doors ; 
she wandered vaguely in the western wilderness or 
cultivated shy forms of that " household art " for 
which she had had a respect before tasting the 
bitter tree of knowledge. Her only plan was to be 
as quiet as a mouse, and when she failed in the 
attempt to lose herself in the flat suburb she felt 
like a lonely fly crawling over a dusty chart. 



154 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

How had Mrs. Gereth known in advance that if 
she had chosen to be " vile " (that was what Fleda 
called it) everything would happen to help her ? 
especially the way her poor father, after breakfast, 
doddered off to his club, showing seventy when he 
was really fifty-seven and leaving her richly alone 
for the day. He came back about midnight, look- 
ing at her very hard and not risking long words 
only making her feel by inimitable touches that the 
presence of his family compelled him to alter all 
his hours. She had in their common sitting-room 
the company of the objects he was fond of saying 
that he had collected objects, shabby and battered, 
of a sort that appealed little to his daughter : old 
brandy-flasks and match-boxes, old calendars and 
hand-books, intermixed with an assortment of pen- 
wipers and ash-trays, a harvest he had gathered in 
from penny bazaars. He was blandly unconscious 
of that side of Fleda's nature which had endeared 
her to Mrs. Gereth, and she had often heard him 
wish to goodness there was something striking she 
cared for. Why didn't she try collecting some- 
thing ? it didn't matter what. She would find it 
gave an interest to life, and there was no end of 
little curiosities one could easily pick up. He was 
conscious of having a taste for fine things which 
his children had unfortunately not inherited. This 
indicated the limits of their acquaintance with him 
limits which, as Fleda was now sharply aware, 
could only leave him to wonder what the mischief 
she was there for. As she herself echoed this 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 155 

question to the letter she was not in a position to 
clear up the mystery. She couldn't have given a 
name to her errand in town or explained it save by 
saying that she had had to get away from Ricks. 
It was intensely provisional, but what was to come 
next ? Nothing could come next but a deeper 
anxiety. She had neither a home nor an outlook 
nothing in all the wide world but a feeling of 
suspense. 

Of course she had her duty her duty to Owen 
a definite undertaking, re-affirmed, after his visit 
to Ricks, under her hand and seal ; but there was 
no sense of possession attached to that : there was 
only a horrible sense of privation. She had quite 
moved from under Mrs. Gereth's wide wing; and 
now that she was really among the pen-wipers and 
ash-trays she was swept, at the thought of all the 
beauty she had forsworn, by short, wild gusts of 
despair. If her friend should really keep the spoils 
she would never return to her. If that friend 
should on the other hand part with them what on 
earth would there be to return to? The chill 
struck deep as Fleda thought of the mistress of 
Ricks reduced, in vulgar parlance, to what she had 
on her back : there was nothing to which she could 
compare such an image but her idea of Marie 
Antoinette in the Conciergerie, or perhaps the 
vision of some tropical bird, the creature of hot, 
dense forests, dropped on a frozen moor to pick up 
a living. The mind's eye could indeed see Mrs. 
Gereth only in her thick, coloured air ; it took all 



156 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

the light of her treasures to make her concrete and 
distinct. She loomed for a moment, in any mere 
house, gaunt and unnatural ; then she vanished as 
if she had suddenly sunk into a quicksand. Fleda 
lost herself in the rich fancy of how, if she were 
mistress of Poynton, a whole province, as an abode, 
should be assigned there to the august queen- 
mother. She would have returned from her cam- 
paign with her baggage-train and her loot, and the 
palace would unbar its shutters and the morning 
flash back from its halls. In the event of a 
surrender the poor woman would never again be 
able to begin to collect : she was now too old and 
too moneyless, and times were altered and good 
things impossibly dear. A surrender, furthermore, 
to any daughter-in-law save an oddity like Mona 
needn't at all be an abdication in fact ; any other 
fairly nice girl whom Owen should have taken it 
into his head to marry would have been positively 
glad to have, for the museum, a custodian who was 
a walking catalogue and who understood beyond 
any one in England the hygiene and temperament 
of rare pieces. A fairly nice girl would somehow 
be away a good deal and would at such times count 
it a blessing to feel Mrs. Gereth at her post. 

Fleda had fully recognised, the first days, that, 
quite apart from any question of letting Owen 
know where she was, it would be a charity to give 
him some sign : it would be weak, it would be ugly 
to be diverted from that kindness by the fact that 
Mrs. Gereth had attached a tinkling bell to it. A 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 157 

frank relation with him was only superficially dis- 
credited : she ought for his own sake to send him a 
word of cheer. So she repeatedly reasoned, but she 
as repeatedly delayed performance : if her general 
plan had been to be as still as a mouse an inter- 
view like the interview at Ricks would be an odd 
contribution to that ideal. Therefore with a con- 
fused preference of practice to theory she let the 
days go by ; she felt that nothing was so impera- 
tive as the gain of precious time. She shouldn't be 
able to stay with her father for ever, but she might 
now reap the benefit of having married her sister 
Maggie's 'union had been built up round a small 
spare room. Concealed in this apartment she 
might try to paint again, and abetted by the 
grateful Maggie for Maggie at least was grateful, 
she might try to dispose of her work. She had not 
indeed struggled with a brush since her visit to 
Waterbath, where the sight of the family splotches 
had put her immensely on her guard. Poynton, 
moreover, had been an impossible place for pro- 
ducing ; no active art could flourish there but a 
Buddhistic contemplation. It had stripped its 
mistress clean of all feeble accomplishments ; her 
hands were imbrued neither with ink nor with 
water-colour. Close to Fleda's present abode was 
the little shop of a man who mounted and framed 
pictures and desolately dealt in artists' materials. 
She sometimes paused before it to look at a couple 
of shy experiments for which its dull window con- 
stituted publicity, small studies placed there for 



158 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

sale and full of warning to a young lady without 
fortune and without talent. Some such young lady 
had brought them forth in sorrow ; some such 
young lady, to see if they had been snapped up, 
had passed and repassed as helplessly as she her- 
self was doing. They never had been, they never 
would be snapped up ; yet they were quite above 
the actual attainment of some other young ladies. 
It was a matter of discipline with Fleda to take an 
occasional lesson from them ; besides which when 
she now quitted the house she had to look for 
reasons after she was out. The only place to find 
them was in the shop-windows. They made her 
feel like a servant-girl taking her " afternoon," but 
that didn't signify : perhaps some day she would 
resemble such a person still more closely. This 
continued a fortnight, at the end of which the feel- 
ing was suddenly dissipated. She had stopped as 
usual in the presence of the little pictures ; then, as 
she turned away, she had found herself face to face 
with Owen Gereth. 

At the sight of him two fresh waves passed 
quickly across her heart, one at the heels of the 
other. The first was an instant perception that 
this encounter was not an accident ; the second a 
consciousness as prompt that the best place for it 
was the street. She knew before he told her that 
he had been to see her, and the next thing she 
knew was that he had had information from his 
mother. Her mind grasped these things while he 
said with a smile : " I saw only your back, but I 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 159 

was sure. I was over the way. I've been at your 
house." 

"How came you to know my house?" Fleda 
asked. 

" I like that ! " he laughed. " How came you not 
to let me know that you were there ? " 

Fleda, at this, thought it best also to laugh. 
" Since I didn't let you know, why did you 
come ? " 

" Oh, I say ! " cried Owen. " Don't add insult 
to injury. Why in the world didn't you let me 
know? I came because I want awfully to see 
you." He hesitated, then he added : " I got the 
tip from mother. She has written to me fancy ! " 

They still stood where they had met. Fleda's 
instinct was to keep him there ; the more so that 
she could already see him take for granted that 
they would immediately proceed together to her 
door. He rose before her with a different air : he 
looked less ruffled and bruised than he had done 
at Ricks ; he showed a recovered freshness. Per- 
haps, however, this was only because she had 
scarcely seen him at all as yet in London form, as 
he would have called it " turned out " as he was 
turned out in town. In the country, heated with 
the chase -and splashed with the mire, he had 
always rather reminded her of a picturesque 
peasant in national costume. This costume, as 
Owen wore it, varied from day to day ; it was as 
copious as the wardrobe of an actor ; but it never 
failed of suggestions of the earth and the weather, 



160 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

the hedges and the ditches, the beasts and the 
birds. There had been days when he struck her 
as all nature in one pair of boots. It didn't make 
him now another person that he was delicately 
dressed, shining and splendid that he had a 
higher hat and light gloves with black seams and 
a spear-like umbrella ; but it made him, she soon 
decided, really handsomer, and that in turn gave 
him for she never could think of him, or indeed 
of some other things, without the aid of his vocab- 
ulary a tremendous pull. Yes, this was for the 
moment, as he looked at her, the great fact of their 
situation his pull was tremendous. She tried to 
keep the acknowledgment of it from trembling in 
her voice as she said to him with more surprise 
than she really felt : " You've then re-opened rela- 
tions with her ? " 

" It's she who has re-opened them with me. I 
got her letter this morning. She told me you 
were here and that she wished me to know it. She 
didn't say much ; she just gave me your address. 
I wrote her back, you know, * Thanks no end. 
Shall go to-day.' So we are in correspondence 
again, aren't we ? She means of course that you've 
something to tell me from her, hey ? But if you 
have, why haven't you let a fellow know ? " He 
waited for no answer to this, he had so much to 
say. " At your house, just now, they told me how 
long you've been here. Haven't you known all 
the while that I'm counting the hours ? I left a 
word for you that I would be back at six ; but 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 161 

I'm awfully glad to have caught you so much 
sooner. You don't mean to say you're not going 
home ! " he exclaimed in dismay. " The young 
woman there told me you went out early." 

" I've been out a very short time," said Fleda, 
who had hung back with the general purpose of 
making things difficult for him. The street would 
make them difficult ; she could trust the street. 
She reflected in time, however, that to betray to 
him she was afraid to admit him would give him 
more a feeling of facility than of anything else. 
She moved on with him after a moment, letting 
him direct their course to her door, which was only 
round a corner ; she considered as they went that 
it might not prove such a stroke to have been in 
London so long and yet not to have called him. 
She desired he should feel she was perfectly simple 
with him, and there was no simplicity in that. 
None the less, on the steps of the house, though she 
had a key, she rang the bell ; and while they waited 
together and she averted her face she looked 
straight into the depths of what Mrs. Gereth had 
meant by giving him the " tip." This had been 
perfidious, had been monstrous of Mrs. Gereth, and 
Fleda wondered if her letter had contained only 
what Owen repeated. 



M 



XIV 

WHEN they had passed together into her father's 
little place and, among the brandy-flasks and pen- 
wipers, still more disconcerted and divided, the 
girl to do something, though it would make him 
stay had ordered tea, he put the letter before her 
quite as if he had guessed her thought. "She's 
still a bit nasty fancy ! " He handed her the 
scrap of a note which he had pulled out of his 
pocket and from its envelope. "Fleda Vetch," it 
ran, "is at West Kensington 10 Raphael Road. 
Go to see her and try, for God's sake, to cultivate 
a glimmer of intelligence." When in handing it 
back to him she took in his face she saw that its 
heightened colour was the effect of his watching 
her read such an allusion to his want of wit. Fleda 
knew what it was an allusion to, and his pathetic 
air of having received this buffet, tall and fine 
and kind as he stood there, made her conscious of 
not quite concealing her knowledge. For a minute 
she was kept silent by an angered sense of the 
trick that had been played her. It was a trick 

because Fleda considered there had been a cove- 
162 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 163 

nant ; and the trick consisted of Mrs. Gereth's 
having broken the spirit of their agreement while 
conforming in a fashion to the letter. Under the 
girl's menace of a complete rupture she had been 
afraid to make of her secret the use she itched to 
make ; but in the course of these days of separa- 
tion she had gathered pluck to hazard an indirect 
betrayal. Fleda measured her hesitations and the 
impulse which she had finally obeyed and which 
the continued procrastination of Waterbath had 
encouraged, had at last made irresistible. If in 
her high-handed manner of playing their game she 
had not named the thing hidden she had named 
the hiding-place. It was over the sense of this 
wrong that Fleda's lips closed tight: she was 
afraid of aggravating her case by some ejaculation 
that would make Owen prick up his ears. A 
great, quick effort, however, helped her to avoid 
the danger ; with her constant idea of keeping cool 
and repressing a visible flutter she found herself 
able to choose her words. Meanwhile he had 
exclaimed with his uncomfortable laugh : " That's 
a good one for me, Miss Vetch, isn't it ? " 

"Of course you know by this time that your 
mother's very sharp," said Fleda. 

" I think I can understand well enough when I 
know what's to be understood," the young man 
asserted. "But I hope you won't mind my say- 
ing that you've kept me pretty well in the dark 
about that. I've been waiting, waiting, waiting 
so much has depended on your news. If you've 



164 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

been working for me I'm afraid it has been a 
thankless job. Can't she say what she'll do, one 
way or the other ? I can't tell in the least where 
I am, you know. I haven't really learnt from you, 
since I saw you there, where she is. You wrote me 
to be patient, and upon my soul I have been. But 
I'm afraid you don't quite realise what I'm to be 
patient with. At Waterbath, don't you know? 
I've simply to account and answer for the damned 
things. Mona glowers at me and waits, and I, 
hang it, I glower at you and do the same." Fleda 
had gathered fuller confidence as he continued ; so 
plain was it that she had succeeded in not dropping 
into his mind the spark that might produce the 
glimmer his mother had tried to rub up. But even 
her small safety gave a start when after an appealing 
pause he went on : "I hope, you know, that after 
all you're not keeping anything back from me." 

In the full face of what she was keeping back 
such a hope could only make her wince ; but she 
was prompt with her explanations in proportion 
as she felt they failed to meet him. The smutty 
maid came in with tea-things, and Fleda, moving 
several objects, eagerly accepted the diversion of 
arranging a place for them on one of the tables. 
" I've been trying to break your mother down 
because it has seemed there may be some chance 
of it. That's why I've let you go on expecting it. 
She's too proud to veer round all at once, but 
I think I speak correctly in saying that I've made 
an impression." 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 165 

In spite of ordering tea she had not invited him 
to sit down ; she herself made a point of standing. 
He hovered by the window that looked into 
Raphael Road ; she kept at the other side of the 
room ; the stunted slavey, gazing wide-eyed at the 
beautiful gentleman and either stupidly or cun- 
ningly bringing but one thing at a time, came and 
went between the tea-tray and the open door. 

" You pegged at her so hard ? " Owen asked. 

" I explained to her fully your position and put 
before her much more strongly than she liked what 
seemed to me her absolute duty." 

Owen waited a little. " And having done that 
you departed ? " 

Fleda felt the full need of giving a reason for 
her departure ; but at first she only said with 
cheerful frankness : " I departed." 

Her companion again looked at her in silence. 
" I thought you had gone to her for several 
months." 

"Well," Fleda replied, "I couldn't stay. I 
didn't like it. I didn't like it at all I couldn't 
bear it," she went on. "In the midst of those 
trophies of Poynton, living with them, touching 
them, using them, I felt as if I were backing her 
up. As I was not a bit of an accomplice, as I hate 
what she has done, I didn't want to be, even to 
the extent of the mere look of it what is it you 
call such people? an accessory after the fact." 
There was something she kept back so rigidly 
that the joy of uttering the rest was double. She 



166 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

felt the sharpest need of giving him all the other 
truth. There was a matter as to which she had 
deceived him, and there was a matter as to which 
she had deceived Mrs. Gereth, but her lack of 
pleasure in deception as such came home to her 
now. She busied herself with the tea and, to 
extend the occupation, cleared the table still more, 
spreading out the coarse cups and saucers and the 
vulgar little plates. She was aware that she pro- 
duced more confusion than symmetry, but she was 
also aware that she was violently nervous. Owen 
tried to help her with something : this made indeed 
for disorder. " My reason for not writing to you," 
she pursued, "was simply that I was hoping to 
hear more from Ricks. I've waited from day to 
day for that." 

" But you've heard nothing ? " 
" Not a word." 

" Then what I understand," said Owen, " is that 
practically you and Mummy have quarrelled. 
And you've done it I mean you personally for 
me." 

" Oh no, we haven't quarrelled a bit ! " Then 
with a smile : " We've only diverged." 

"You've diverged uncommonly far!" Owen 
laughed pleasantly back. Fleda, with her hideous 
crockery and her father's collections, could con- 
ceive that these objects, to her visitor's perception 
even more strongly than to her own, measured the 
length of the swing from Poynton and Ricks ; she 
was aware too that her high standards figured 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 167 

vividly enough even to Owen's simplicity to make 
him reflect that West Kensington was a tremen- 
dous fall. If she had fallen it was because she 
had acted for him. She was all the more content 
he should thus see she had acted, as the cost of it, 
in his eyes, was none of her own showing. " What 
seems to have happened," he exclaimed, "is that 
you've had a row with her and yet not moved 
her ! " 

Fleda considered a moment ; she was full of the 
impression that, notwithstanding her scant help, he 
saw his way clearer than he had seen it at Ricks. 
He might mean many things ; and what if the 
many should mean in their turn only one ? " The 
difficulty is, you understand, that she doesn't really 
see into your situation." She hesitated. " She 
doesn't comprehend why your marriage hasn't yet 
taken place." 

Owen stared. " Why, for the reason I told you : 
that Mona won't take another step till mother 
has given full satisfaction. Everything must be 
there. You see everything was there the day of 
that fatal visit." 

"Yes, that's what I understood from you at 
Ricks," said Fleda ; " but I haven't repeated it 
to your mother." She had hated at Ricks to 
talk with him about Mona, but now that scruple 
was swept away. If he could speak of Mona's 
visit as fatal she need at least not pretend not to 
notice it. It made all the difference that she had 
tried to assist him and had failed : to give him 



i68 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

any faith in her service she must give him all her 
reasons but one. She must give him, in other 
words, with a corresponding omission, all Mrs. 
Gereth's. "You can easily see that, as she dis- 
likes your marriage, anything that may seem to 
make it less certain works in her favour. Without 
my telling her, she has suspicions and views that 
are simply suggested by your delay. Therefore 
it didn't seem to me right to make them worse. 
By holding off long enough, she thinks she may 
put an end to your engagement. If Mona's wait- 
ing she believes she may at last tire Mona out." 
That, in all conscience, Fleda felt was lucid enough. 

So the young man, following her attentively, 
appeared equally to feel. "So far as that goes," 
he promptly declared, " she has at last tired Mona 
out." He uttered the words with a strange approach 
to hilarity. 

Fleda's surprise at this aberration left her a 
moment looking at him. " Do you mean your 
marriage is off? " 

Owen answered with a kind of gay despair. 
" God knows, Miss Vetch, where or when or what 
my marriage is ! If it isn't ' off/ it certainly, at the 
point things have reached, isn't on. I haven't seen 
Mona for ten days, and for a week I haven't heard 
from her. She used to write me every week, don't 
you know ? She won't budge from Waterbath and 
I haven't budged from town." Then he suddenly 
broke out : " If she does chuck me, will mother come 
round ? " 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 169 

Fleda, at this, felt that her heroism had come 
to its real test felt that in telling him the truth 
she should effectively raise a hand to push his 
impediment out of the way. Was the knowledge 
that such a motion would probably dispose forever 
of Mona capable of yielding to the conception of 
still giving her every chance she was entitled to? 
That conception was heroic, but at the same moment 
it reminded Fleda of the place it had held in her 
plan she was also reminded of the not less urgent 
claim of the truth. Ah, the truth there was a 
limit to the impunity with which one could juggle 
with it ! Wasn't what she had most to remember 
the fact that Owen had a right to his property and 
that he had also her vow to stand by him in the 
effort to recover it? How did she stand by him if 
she hid from him the single way to recover it of 
which she was quite sure ? For an instant that 
seemed to her the fullest of her life she debated. 
" Yes," she said at last, " if your marriage is really 
abandoned she will give up everything she has 
taken." 

" That's just what makes Mona hesitate ! " Owen 
honestly exclaimed. " I mean the idea that I shall 
get back the things only if she gives me up." 

Fleda thought an instant. "You mean makes 
her hesitate to keep you not hesitate to renounce 
you ? " 

Owen looked a trifle befogged. "She doesn't 
see the use of hanging on, as I haven't even yet put 
the matter into legal hands. She's awfully keen 



i?o THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

about that, and awfully disgusted that I don't. She 
says it's the only real way, and she thinks I'm afraid 
to take it. She has given me time and then has 
given me again more. She says I give Mummy too 
much. She says I'm a muff to go pottering on. 
That's why she's drawing off so hard, don't you 
see?" 

" I don't see very clearly. Of course you must 
give her what you offered her ; of course you must 
keep your word. There must be no mistake about 
that!" the girl declared. 

Owen's bewilderment visibly increased. " You 
think, then, as she does, that I must send down the 
police ? " 

The mixture of reluctance and dependence in 
this made her feel how much she was failing him : 
she had the sense of " chucking " him too. " No, 
no, not yet ! " she said, though she had really no 
other and no better course to prescribe. " Doesn't 
it occur to you," she asked in a moment, " that if 
Mona is, as you say, drawing away, she may have, 
in doing so, a very high motive ? She knows the 
immense value of all the objects detained by your 
mother, and to restore the spoils of Poynton she is 
reac jy i s that it ? to make a sacrifice. The sacri- 
fice is that of an engagement she had entered upon 
with joy." 

Owen had been blank a moment before, but he 
followed this argument with success a success so 
immediate that it enabled him to produce with 
decision : " Ah, she's not that sort ! She wants them 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 171 

herself," he added ; " she wants to feel they're hers ; 
she doesn't care whether I have them or not ! And 
if she can't get them she doesn't want me. If she 
can't get them she doesn't want anything at all." 

This was categoric : Fleda drank it in. " She 
takes such an interest in them ? " 

" So it appears." 

" So much that they're all, and that she can let 
everything else absolutely depend upon them ? " 

Owen weighed her question as if he felt the 
responsibility of his answer. But that answer came 
in a moment and, as Fleda could see, out of a wealth 
of memory. " She never wanted them particularly 
till they seemed to be in danger. Now she has an 
idea about them ; and when she gets hold of an idea 
oh dear me ! " He broke off, pausing and looking 
away as with a sense of the futility of expression : 
it was the first time Fleda had ever heard him 
explain a matter so pointedly or embark at all on a 
generalisation. It was striking, it was touching to 
her, as he faltered, that he appeared but half capable 
of floating his generalisation to the end. The girl, 
however, was so far competent to fill up his blank 
as that she had divined on the occasion of Mona's 
visit to Poynton what would happen in the event of 
the accident at which he glanced. She had there 
with her own eyes seen Owen's betrothed get hold 
of an idea. " I say, you know, do give me some 
tea ! " he went on irrelevantly and familiarly. 

Her profuse preparations had all this time had no 
sequel, and with a laugh that she felt to be awkward 



172 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

she hastily complied with his request. " It's sure to 
be horrid," she said ; " we don't have at all good 
things." She offered him also bread and butter, of 
which he partook, holding his cup and saucer in his 
other hand and moving slowly about the room. She 
poured herself a cup, but not to take it ; after which, 
without wanting it, she began to eat a small stale 
biscuit. She was struck with the extinction of the 
unwillingness she had felt at Ricks to contribute to 
the bandying between them of poor Mona's name ; 
and under this influence she presently resumed : 
" Am I to understand that she engaged herself to 
marry you without caring for you ? " 

Owen looked out into Raphael Road. " She did 
care for me awfully. But she can't stand the 
strain." 

" The strain of what ? " 

" Why, of the whole wretched thing." 

"The whole thing has indeed been wretched, 
and I can easily conceive its effect upon her," 
Fleda said. 

Her visitor turned sharp round. " You can ? " 
There was a light in his strong stare. " You can 
understand it's spoiling her temper and making 
her come down on me ? She behaves as if I were 
of no use to her at all ! " 

Fleda hesitated. " She's rankling under the 
sense of her wrong." 

" Well, was it I, pray, who perpetrated the 
wrong? Ain't I doing what I can to get the thing 
arranged ? " 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 173 

The ring of his question made his anger at 
Mona almost resemble for a minute an anger at 
Fleda; and this resemblance in turn caused our 
young lady to observe how handsome he looked 
when he spoke, for the first time in her hearing, 
with that degree of heat, and used, also for the 
first time, such a term as " perpetrated." In addi- 
tion his challenge rendered still more vivid to her 
the mere flimsiness of her own aid. " Yes, you've 
been perfect," she said. " You've had a most diffi- 
cult part. You've had to show tact and patience, 
as well as firmness, with your mother, and you've 
strikingly shown them. It's I who, quite uninten- 
tionally, have deceived you. I haven't helped you 
at all to your remedy." 

"Well, you wouldn't at all events have ceased 
to like me, would you ? " Owen demanded. It 
evidently mattered to him to know if she really 
justified Mona. " I mean of course if you had 
liked me liked me as she liked me," he explained. 

Fleda looked this inquiry in the face only long 
enough to recognise that in her embarrassment she 
must take instant refuge in a superior one. " I 
can answer that better if I know how kind to her 
you've been. Have you been kind to her ? " she 
asked as simply as she could. 

"Why, rather, Miss Vetch!" Owen declared. 
" I've done every blessed thing she wished. I 
rushed down to Ricks, as you saw, with fire and 
sword, and the day after that I went to see her 
at Waterbath." At this point he checked himself, 



174 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

though it was just the point at which her interest 
deepened. A different look had come into his 
face as he put down his empty teacup. " But why 
should I tell you such things, for any good it does 
me ? I gather that you've no suggestion to make 
me now except that I shall request my solicitor to 
act. Shall I request him to act ? " 

Fleda scarce caught his words : something new 
had suddenly come into her mind. "When you 
went to Waterbath after seeing me," she asked, 
" did you tell her all about that? " 

Owen looked conscious. "All about it?" 

" That you had had a long talk with me without 
seeing your mother at all ? " 

" Oh yes, I told her exactly, and that you had 
been most awfully kind and that I had placed the 
whole thing in your hands." 

Fleda was silent a moment. " Perhaps that dis- 
pleased her," she at last suggested. 

" It displeased her fearfully," said Owen, looking 
very queer. 

" Fearfully ? " broke from the girl. Somehow, 
at the word, she was startled. 

"She wanted to know what right you had to 
meddle. She said you were not honest." 

" Oh ! " Fleda cried with a long wail. Then she 
controlled herself. " I see." 

"She abused you, and I defended you. She 
denounced you " 

She checked him with a gesture. " Don't tell 
me what she did ! " She had coloured up to her 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 175 

eyes, where, as with the effect of a blow in the 
face, she quickly felt the tears gathering. It was 
a sudden drop in her great flight, a shock to her 
attempt to watch over what Mona was entitled to. 
While she had been straining her very soul in this 
attempt the object of her magnanimity had been 
practically pronouncing her vile. She took it all 
in, however, and after an instant was able to speak 
with a smile. She would not have been surprised 
to learn indeed that her smile was strange. " You 
had said a while ago that your mother and I quar- 
relled about you. It's much more true that you 
and Mona have quarrelled about me" 

Owen hesitated, but at last he brought it out. 
" What I mean to say is, don't you know, that 
Mona, if you don't mind my saying so, has taken 
it into her head to be jealous." 

" I see," said Fleda. " Well, I dare say our con- 
ferences have looked very odd." 

" They've looked very beautiful, and they've been 
very beautiful. Oh, I've told her the sort you are!" 
the young man pursued. 

"That of course hasn't made her love me 
better." 

" No, nor love me," said Owen. " Of course, you 
know, she says as far as that goes that she loves 
me." 

"And do you say you love her? " 

" I say nothing else I say it all the while. I said 
it the other day a dozen times." Fleda made no 
immediate rejoinder to this, and before she could 



i;6 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

choose one he repeated his question of a moment 
before. "Am I to tell my solicitor to act? " 

She had at that moment turned away from this 
solution, precisely because she saw in it the great 
chance of her secret. If she should determine him 
to adopt it she might put out her hand and take 
him. It would shut in Mrs. Gereth's face the open 
door of surrender : she would flare up and fight, 
flying the flag of a passionate, an heroic defence. 
The case would obviously go against her, but the 
proceedings would last longer than Mona's patience 
or Owen's propriety. With a formal rupture he 
would be at large ; and she had only to tighten 
her fingers round the string that would raise the 
curtain on that scene. "You tell me you 'say' 
you love her, but is there nothing more in it than 
your saying so ? You wouldn't say so, would you, 
if it's not true ? What in the world has become in 
so short a time of the affection that led to your 
engagement ? " 

" The deuce knows what has become of it, Miss 
Vetch ! " Owen cried. "It seemed all to go to pot 
as this horrid struggle came on." He was close to 
her now and, with his face lighted again by the 
relief of it, he looked all his helpless history into 
her eyes. "As I saw you and noticed you more, 
as I knew you better and better, I felt less and 
less I couldn't help it about anything or any 
one else. I wished I had known you sooner I 
knew I should have liked you better than any one 
in the world. But it wasn't you who made the 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 177 

difference," he eagerly continued, "and I was 
awfully determined to stick to Mona to the death. 
It was she herself who made it, upon my soul, by 
the state she got into, the way she sulked, the way 
she took things and the way she let me have it! 
She destroyed our prospects and our happiness, 
upon my honour. She made just the same smash 
of them as if she had kicked over that tea-table. 
She wanted to know all the while what was passing 
between us, between you and me ; and she wouldn't 
take my solemn assurance that nothing was passing 
but what might have directly passed between me 
and old Mummy. She said a pretty girl like you 
was a nice old Mummy for me, and, if you'll believe 
it, she never called you anything else but that. I'll 
be hanged if I haven't been good, haven't I ? I 
haven't breathed a breath of any sort to you, have 
I ? You'd have been down on me hard if I had, 
wouldn't you ? You're down on me pretty hard as 
it is, I think, aren't you ? But I don't care what 
you say now, or what Mona says either, or a single 
rap what any one says : she has given me at last 
by her confounded behaviour a right to speak out, 
to utter the way I feel about it. The way I feel 
about it, don't you know, is that it had- all better 
come to an end. You ask me if I don't love her, 
and I suppose it's natural enough you should. 
But you ask it at the very moment I'm half mad 
to say to you that there's only one person on the 

whole earth I really love, and that that person " 

Here Owen pulled up short, and Fleda wondered 



i;8 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

if it were from the effect of his perceiving, through 
the closed door, the sound of steps and voices on 
the landing of the stairs. She had caught this 
sound herself with surprise and a vague uneasiness : 
it was not an hour at which her father ever came 
in, and there was no present reason why she should 
have a visitor. She had a fear which after a few 
seconds deepened : a visitor was at hand ; the 
visitor would be simply Mrs. Gereth. That lady 
wished for a near view of the consequence of her 
note to Owen. Fleda straightened herself with the 
instant thought that if this was what Mrs. Gereth 
desired Mrs. Gereth should have it in a form not 
to be mistaken. Owen's pause was the matter of 
a moment, but during that moment our young 
couple stood with their eyes holding each other's 
eyes and their ears catching the suggestion, still 
through the door, of a murmured conference in the 
hall. Fleda had begun to make the movement to 
cut it short when Owen stopped her with a grasp 
of her arm. " You're surely able to guess," he said 
with his voice dropped and her arm pressed as she 
had never known such a drop or such a pressure 
"you're surely able to guess the one person on 
earth I love?" 

The handle of the door turned, and Fleda had 
only time to jerk at him : " Your mother ! " 

The door opened, and the smutty maid, edging 
in, announced " Mrs. Brigstock ! " 



XV 

MRS. BRIGSTOCK, in the doorway, stood looking 
from one of the occupants of the room to the other ; 
then they saw her eyes attach themselves to a small 
object that had lain hitherto unnoticed on the 
carpet. This was the biscuit of which, on giving 
Owen his tea, Fleda had taken a perfunctory 
nibble : she had immediately laid it on the table, 
and that subsequently, in some precipitate move- 
ment, she should have brushed it off was doubtless 
a sign of the agitation that possessed her. For 
Mrs. Brigstock there was apparently more in it 
than met the eye. Owen at any rate picked it up, 
and Fleda felt as if he were removing the traces of 
some scene that the newspapers would have charac- 
terised as lively. Mrs. Brigstock clearly took in 
also the sprawling tea-things and the mark as of 
high water in the full faces of her young friends. 
These elements made the little place a vivid picture 
of intimacy. A minute was filled by Fleda's relief 
at finding her visitor not to be Mrs. Gereth, and a 
longer space by the ensuing sense of what was 

really more compromising in the actual apparition. 

179 



i8o THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

It dimly occurred to her that the lady of Ricks had 
also written to Waterbath. Not only had Mrs. 
Brigstock never paid her a call, but Fleda would 
have been unable to figure her so employed. A 
year before the girl had spent a day under her 
roof, but never feeling that Mrs. Brigstock regarded 
this as constituting a bond. She had never stayed 
in any house but Poynton, where the imagination 
of a bond, on one side or the other, prevailed. 
After the first astonishment she dashed gaily at 
her guest, emphasising her welcome and wondering 
how her whereabouts had become known at Water- 
bath. Had not Mrs. Brigstock quitted that resi- 
dence for the very purpose of laying her hand on 
the associate of Mrs. Gereth's misconduct? The 
spirit in which this hand was to be laid our young 
lady was yet to ascertain ; but she was a person 
who could think ten thoughts at once a circum- 
stance which, even putting her present plight at its 
worst, gave her a great advantage over a person 
who required easy conditions for dealing even with 
one. The very vibration of the air, however, told 
her that whatever Mrs. Brigstock's spirit might 
originally have been it had been sharply affected 
by the sight of Owen. He was essentially a sur- 
prise : she had reckoned with everything that con- 
cerned him but his personal presence. With that, 
in awkward silence, she was reckoning now, as 
Fleda could see, while she effected with friendly 
aid an embarrassed transit to the sofa. Owen 
would be useless, would be deplorable : that aspect 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 181 

of the case Fleda had taken in as well. Another 
aspect was that he would admire her, adore her, 
exactly in proportion as she herself should rise 
gracefully superior. Fleda felt for the first time 
free to let herself " go," as Mrs. Gereth had said, 
and she was full of the sense that to " go " meant 
now to aim straight at the effect of moving Owen 
to rapture at her simplicity and tact. It was her 
impression that he had no positive dislike of Mona's 
mother ; but she couldn't entertain that notion 
without a glimpse of the implication that he had a 
positive dislike of Mrs. Brigstock's daughter. Mona's 
mother declined tea, declined a better seat, declined 
a cushion, declined to remove her boa : Fleda 
guessed that she had not come on purpose to be 
dry, but that the voice of the invaded room had 
itself given her the hint. 

" I just came on the mere chance," she said. 
" Mona found yesterday somewhere the card of 
invitation to your sister's marriage that you sent 
us, or your father sent us, some time ago. We 
couldn't be present it was impossible ; but as it 
had this address on it I said to myself that I might 
find you here." 

" I'm very glad to be at home," Fleda responded. 

" Yes, that doesn't happen very often, does it ? " 
Mrs. Brigstock looked round afresh at Fleda's 
home. 

"Oh, I came back from Ricks last week. I 
shall be here now till I don't know when." 

"We thought it very likely you would have 



182 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

come back. We knew of course of your having been 
at Ricks. If I didn't find you I thought I might 
perhaps find Mr. Vetch," Mrs. Brigstock went on. 

" I'm sorry he's out. He's always out all day 
long." 

Mrs. Brigstock's round eyes grew rounder. "All 
day long ? " 

" All day long," Fleda smiled. 

" Leaving you quite to yourself? " 

" A good deal to myself, but a little, to-day, as 
you see, to Mr. Gereth " and the girl looked at 
Owen to draw him into their sociability. For Mrs. 
Brigstock he had immediately sat down ; but the 
movement had not corrected the sombre stiffness 
taking possession of him at the sight of her. 
Before he found a response to the appeal addressed 
to him Fleda turned again to her other visitor. 
" Is there any purpose for which you would like 
my father to call on you ? " 

Mrs. Brigstock received this question as if it 
were not to be unguardedly answered ; upon which 
Owen intervened with pale irrelevance : " I wrote 
to Mona this morning of Miss Vetch's being in 
town ; but of course the letter hadn't arrived when 
you left home." 

" No, it hadn't arrived. I came up for the night 
I've several matters to attend to." Then looking 
with an intention of fixedness from one of her 
companions to the other, " I'm afraid I've inter- 
rupted your conversation," Mrs. Brigstock said. 
She spoke without effectual point, had the air of 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 183 

merely announcing the fact. Fleda had not yet 
been, confronted with the question of the sort of 
person Mrs. Brigstock was ; she had only been 
confronted with the question of the sort of person 
Mrs. Gereth scorned her for being. She was 
really somehow no sort of person at all, and it 
came home to Fleda that if Mrs. Gereth could see 
her at this moment she would scorn her more than 
ever. She had a face of which it was impossible 
to say anything but that it was pink, and a mind 
that it would be possible to describe only if one 
had been able to mark it in a similar fashion. As 
nature had made this organ neither green nor blue 
nor yellow there was nothing to know it by : it 
strayed and bleated like an unbranded sheep. 
Fleda felt for it at this moment much of the kind- 
ness of compassion, since Mrs. Brigstock had 
brought it with her to do something for her that 
she regarded as delicate. Fleda was quite prepared 
to help it to perform if she should be able to 
gather what it wanted to do. What she gathered, 
however, more and more was that it wanted to do 
something different from what it had wanted to do 
in leaving Waterbath. There was still nothing to 
enlighten her more specifically in the way her 
visitor continued : " You must be very much taken 
up. I believe you quite espouse his dreadful 
quarrel." 

Fleda vaguely demurred. " His dreadful quarrel ? " 
" About the contents of the house. Aren't you 
looking after them for him ? " 



184 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

" She knows how awfully kind you've been to 
me," Owen said. He showed such discomfiture 
that he really gave away their situation ; and Fleda 
found herself divided between the hope that he 
would take leave and the wish that he should see 
the whole of what the occasion might enable her 
to bring to pass for him. 

She explained to Mrs. Brigstock. " Mrs. Gereth, 
at Ricks the other day, asked me particularly to 
see him for her." 

" And did she ask you also particularly to see 
him here in town?" Mrs. Brigstock's hideous 
bonnet seemed to argue for the unsophisticated 
truth ; and it was on Fleda's lips to reply that such 
had indeed been Mrs. Gereth's request. But she 
checked herself, and before she could say anything 
else Owen had addressed their companion. 

" I made a point of letting Mona know that I 
should be here, don't you see ? That's exactly 
what I wrote her this morning." 

" She would have had no doubt you would be 
here if you had a chance," Mrs. Brigstock returned. 
"If your letter had arrived it might have prepared 
me for finding you here at tea. In that case I 
certainly wouldn't have come." 

" I'm glad then it didn't arrive. Shouldn't you 
like him to go ? " Fleda asked. 

Mrs. Brigstock looked at Owen and considered : 
nothing showed in her face but that it turned a 
deeper pink. " I should like him to go with me" 
There was no menace in her tone, but she evidently 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 185 

knew what she wanted. As Owen made no re- 
sponse to this Fleda glanced at him to invite him 
to assent ; then for fear that he wouldn't, and 
would thereby make his case worse, she took upon 
herself to declare that she was sure he would be 
very glad to meet such a wish. She had no sooner 
spoken than she felt that the words had a bad 
effect of intimacy : she had answered for him as 
if she had been his wife. Mrs. Brigstock continued 
to regard him as if she had observed nothing and 
she continued to address Fleda. " I've not seen 
him for a long time I've particular things to say 
to him." 

" So have I things to say to you, Mrs. Brig- 
stock ! " Owen interjected. With this he took up 
his hat as if for immediate departure. 

The other visitor meanwhile turned to Fleda. 
" What is Mrs. Gereth going to do ? " 

" Is that what you came to ask me ? " Fleda 
demanded. 

" That and several other things." 

" Then you had much better let Mr. Gereth go, 
and stay by yourself and make me a pleasant visit. 
You can talk with him when you like, but it's the 
first time you've been to see me." 

This appeal had evidently a certain effect ; Mrs. 
Brigstock visibly wavered. " I can't talk with him 
whenever I like," she returned ; " he hasn't been 
near us since I don't know when. But there are 
things that have brought me here." 

"They can't be things of any importance," 



186 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

Owen, to Fleda's surprise, suddenly asserted. He 
had not at first taken up Mrs. Brigstock's expres- 
sion of a wish to carry him off: Fleda could see 
that the instinct at the bottom of this was that of 
standing by her, of seeming not to abandon her. 
But abruptly, all his soreness working within him, 
it had struck him that he should abandon her still 
more if he should leave her to be dealt with by her 
other visitor. "You must allow me to say, you 
know, Mrs. Brigstock, that I don't think you should 
come down on Miss Vetch about anything. It's 
very good of her to take the smallest interest in us 
and our horrid, vulgar little squabble. If you want 
to talk about it, talk about it with me? He was 
flushed with the idea of protecting Fleda, of ex- 
hibiting his consideration for her. " I don't like 
you cross-questioning her, don't you see ? She's 
as straight as a die : I'll tell you all about her ! " 
he declared with an excited laugh. " Please come 
off with me and let her alone." 

Mrs. Brigstock, at this, became vivid at once ; 
Fleda thought she looked most peculiar. She 
stood straight up, with a queer distention of her 
whole person and of everything in her face but her 
mouth, which she gathered into a small, tight orifice. 
Fleda was painfully divided ; her joy was deep 
within, but it was more relevant to the situation 
that she should not appear to associate herself with 
the tone of familiarity in which Owen addressed a 
lady who had been, and was perhaps still, about to 
become his mother-in-law. She laid on Mrs. Brig- 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 187 

stock's arm a repressive, persuasive hand. Mrs. 
Brigstock, however, had already exclaimed on her 
having so wonderful a defender. " He speaks, 
upon my word, as if I had come here to be rude 
to you ! " 

At this, grasping her hard, Fleda laughed ; then 
she achieved the exploit of delicately kissing her. 
" I'm not in the least afraid to be alone with you, 
or of your tearing me to pieces. I'll answer any 
question that you can possibly dream of putting to 
me." 

" I'm the proper person to answer Mrs. Brig- 
stock's questions," Owen broke in again, "and I'm 
not a bit less ready to meet them than you are." 
He was firmer than she had ever seen him ; it was 
as if she had not dreamed he could be so firm. 

" But she'll only have been here a few minutes. 
What sort of a visit is that ? " Fleda cried. 

" It has lasted long enough for my purpose. 
There was something I wanted to know, but I 
think I know it now." 

" Anything you don't know I dare say I can tell 
you ! " Owen observed as he impatiently smoothed 
his hat with the cuff of his coat. 

Fleda by this time desired immensely to keep 
his companion, but she saw she could do so only at 
the cost of provoking on his part a further exhibi- 
tion of the sheltering attitude which he exaggerated 
precisely because it was the first thing, since he 
had begun to "like" her, that he had been able 
frankly to do for her. It was not in her interest 



i88 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

that Mrs. Brigstock should be more struck than 
she already was with that benevolence. "There 
may be things you know that I don't," she pre- 
sently said to her with a smile. " But I've a sort 
of sense that you are labouring under some great 
mistake." 

Mrs. Brigstock, at this, looked into her eyes 
more deeply and yearningly than she had sup- 
posed Mrs. Brigstock could look : it was the 
flicker of a mild, muddled willingness to give her 
a chance. Owen, however, quickly spoiled every- 
thing, " Nothing is more probable than that Mrs. 
Brigstock is doing what you say ; but there's no 
one in the world to whom you owe an explanation. 
I may owe somebody one I dare say I do. But 
not you no ! " 

" But what if there's one that it's no difficulty at 
all for me to give ? " Fleda inquired. " I'm sure 
that's the only one Mrs. Brigstock came to ask, if 
she came to ask any at all." 

Again the good lady looked hard at her young 
hostess. " I came, I believe, Fleda, just, you know, 
to plead with you." 

Fleda, with a bright face, hesitated a moment. 
" As if I were one of those bad women in a play ? " 

The remark was disastrous : Mrs. Brigstock, on 
whom her brightness was lost, evidently thought it 
singularly free. She turned away as from a pre- 
sence that had really defined itself as objectionable, 
and Fleda had a vain sense that her good humour, 
in which there was an idea, was taken for imperti- 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 189 

nence or at least for levity. Her allusion was 
improper even if she herself wasn't. Mrs. Brig- 
stock's emotion simplified : it came to the same 
thing. " I'm quite ready," that lady said to Owen 
rather mildly and woundedly. " I do want to speak 
to you very much." 

" I'm completely at your service." Owen held 
out his hand to Fleda. " Good-bye, Miss Vetch. 
I hope to see you again to-morrow." He opened 
the door for Mrs. Brigstock, who passed before the 
girl with an oblique, averted salutation. Owen 
and Fleda, while he stood at the door, then faced 
each other darkly and without speaking. Their 
eyes met once more for a long moment, and she 
was conscious there was something in hers that the 
darkness didn't quench, that he had never seen 
before and that he was perhaps never to see again. 
He stayed long enough to take it to take it with 
a sombre stare that just showed the dawn of 
wonder ; then he followed Mrs. Brigstock out of 
the house. 



XVI 

HE had uttered the hope that he should see her 
the next day, but Fleda could easily reflect that he 
wouldn't see her if she were not there to be seen. 
If there was a thing in the world she desired at 
that moment it was that the next day should have 
no point of resemblance with the day that had just 
elapsed. She accordingly aspired to an absence : 
she would go immediately down to Maggie. She 
ran out that evening and telegraphed to her sister, 
and in the morning she quitted London by an 
early train. She required for this step no reason 
but the sense of necessity. It was a strong 
personal need ; she wished to interpose some- 
thing, and there was nothing she could interpose 
but distance, but time. If Mrs. Brigstock had to 
deal with Owen she would allow Mrs. Brigstock 
the chance. To be there, to be in the midst of 
it, was the reverse of what she craved : she had 
already been more in the midst of it than had 
ever entered into her plan. At any rate she had 
renounced her plan ; she had no plan now but the 

plan of separation. This was to abandon Owen, 

190 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 191 

to give up the fine office of helping him back to 
his own ; but when she had undertaken that office 
she had not foreseen that Mrs. Gereth would defeat 
it by a manoeuvre so remarkably simple. The 
scene at her father's rooms had extinguished all 
offices, and the scene at her father's rooms was 
of Mrs. Gereth's producing. Owen, at all events, 
must now act for himself: he had obligations to 
meet, he had satisfactions to give, and Fleda fairly 
ached with the wish that he might be equal to them. 
She never knew the extent of her tenderness for 
him till she became conscious of the present force 
of her desire that he should be superior, be per- 
haps even sublime. She obscurely made out that 
superiority, that sublimity mightn't after all be 
fatal. She closed her eyes and lived for a day or 
two in the mere beauty of confidence. It was 
with her on the short journey ; it was with her at 
Maggie's ; it glorified the mean little house in the 
stupid little town. Owen had grown larger to her : 
he would do, like a man, whatever he should have 
to do. He wouldn't be weak not as she was : 
she herself was weak exceedingly. 

Arranging her few possessions in Maggie's fewer 
receptacles, she caught a glimpse of the bright 
side of the fact that her old things were not such 
a problem as Mrs. Gereth's. Picking her way 
with Maggie through the local puddles, diving 
with her into smelly cottages and supporting her, 
at smellier shops, in firmness over the weight of 
joints and the taste of cheese, it was still her own 



192 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

secret that was universally interwoven. In the 
puddles, the cottages, the shops she was com- 
fortably alone with it ; that comfort prevailed even 
while, at the evening meal, her brother-in-law 
invited her attention to a diagram, drawn with a 
fork on too soiled a tablecloth, of the scandalous 
drains of the Convalescent Home. To be alone 
with it she had come away from Ricks ; and now 
she knew that to be alone with it she had come 
away from London. This advantage was of course 
menaced, though not immediately destroyed, by 
the arrival on the second day of the note she 
had been sure she should receive from Owen. He 
had gone to West Kensington and found her flown, 
but he had got her address from the little maid 
and then hurried to a club and written to her. 
"Why have you left me just when I want you 
most?" he demanded. The next words, it was 
true, were more reassuring on the question of his 
steadiness. " I don't know what your reason may 
be," they went on, "nor why you've not left a 
line for me ; but I don't think you can feel that 
I did anything yesterday that it wasn't right for 
me to do. As regards Mrs. Brigstock certainly 
I just felt what was right and I did it. She had 
no business whatever to attack you that way, and 
I should have been ashamed if I had left her there 
to worry you. I won't have you worried by any 
one. No one shall be disagreeable to you but me. 
I didn't mean to be so yesterday, and I don't 
to-day; but I'm perfectly free now to want you, 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 193 

and I want you much more than you've allowed 
me to explain. You'll see if I'm not all right, if 
you'll let me come to you. Don't be afraid I'll 
not hurt you nor trouble you. I give you my 
honour I'll not hurt any one. Only I must see 
you, on what I had to say to Mrs. B. She was 
nastier than I thought she could be, but I'm 
behaving like an angel. I assure you I'm all right 
that's exactly what I want you to see. You 
owe me something, you know, for what you said 
you would do and haven't done ; what your 
departure without a word gives me to understand 
doesn't it ? that you definitely can't do. Don't 
simply forsake me. See me if you only see me 
once. I sha'n't wait for any leave I shall come 
down to-morrow. I've been looking into trains 
and find there's something that will bring me 
down just after lunch and something very good 
for getting me back. I won't stop long. For 
God's sake, be there." 

This communication arrived in the morning, but 
Fleda would still have had time to wire a protest. 
She debated on that alternative ; then she read the 
note over and found in one phrase an exact state- 
ment of her duty. Owen's simplicity had expressed 
it, and her subtlety had nothing to answer. She 
owed him something for her obvious failure, and 
what she owed him was to receive him. If indeed 
she had known he would make this attempt she 
might have been held to have gained nothing by 
her flight. Well, she had gained what she had 



194 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

gained she had gained the interval. She had no 
compunction for the greater trouble she should give 
the young man ; it was now doubtless right that he 
should have as much trouble as possible. Maggie, 
who thought she was in her confidence, yet was 
immensely not, had reproached her for having 
quitted Mrs. Gereth, and Maggie was just in this 
proportion gratified to hear of the visitor with 
whom, early in the afternoon, Fleda would have to 
ask to be left alone. Maggie liked to see far, and 
now she could sit up-stairs and rake the whole 
future. She had known that, as she familiarly 
said, there was something the matter with Fleda, 
and the value of that knowledge was augmented 
by the fact that there was apparently also some- 
thing the matter with Mr. Gereth. 

Fleda, down-stairs, learned soon enough what 
this was. It was simply that, as he announced 
the moment he stood before her, he was now all 
right. When she asked him what he meant by 
that state he replied that he meant he could 
practically regard himself henceforth as a free 
man : he had had at West Kensington, as soon as 
they got into the street, such a horrid scene with 
Mrs. Brigstock. 

" I knew what she wanted to say to me : that's 
why I was determined to get her off. I knew I 
shouldn't like it, but I was perfectly prepared," 
said Owen. " She brought it out as soon as we 
got round the corner. She asked me point-blank 
if I was in love with you." 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 195 

" And what did you say to that ? " 

" That it was none of her business." 

"Ah," said Fleda, " I'm not so sure ! " 

" Well, / am, and I'm the person most concerned. 
Of course I didn't use just those words : I was 
perfectly civil, quite as civil as she. But I told her 
I didn't consider she had a right to put me any 
such question. I said I wasn't sure that even 
Mona had, with the extraordinary line, you know, 
that Mona has taken. At any rate the whole 
thing, the way / put it, was between Mona and 
me ; and between Mona and me, if she didn't 
mind, it would just have to remain." 

Fleda was silent a little. "All that didn't 
answer her question." 

" Then you think I ought to have told her ? " 

Again our young lady reflected. " I think I'm 
rather glad you didn't." 

" I knew what I was about," said Owen. " It 
didn't strike me that she had the least right to 
come down on us that way and ask for explana- 
tions." 

Fleda looked very grave, weighing the whole 
matter. " I dare say that when she started, when 
she arrived, she didn't mean to ' come down.' " 

" What then did she mean to do ? " 

" What she said to me just before she went : she 
meant to plead with me." 

"Oh, I heard her!" said Owen. "But plead 
with you for what ? " 

" For you, of course to entreat me to give you 



196 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

up. She thinks me awfully designing that I've 
taken some sort of possession of you." 

Owen stared. "You haven't lifted a finger! 
It's I who have taken possession." 

" Very true, you've done it all yourself." Fleda 
spoke gravely and gently, without a breath of 
coquetry. "But those are shades between which 
she's probably not obliged to distinguish. It's 
enough for her that we're repulsively intimate." 

" I am, but you're not ! " Owen exclaimed. 

Fleda gave a dim smile. " You make me at 
least feel that I'm learning to know you very well 
when I hear you say such a thing as that. Mrs. 
Brigstock came to get round me, to supplicate me," 
she went on ; " but to find you there looking so 
much at home, paying me a friendly call and 
shoving the tea-things about that was too much 
for her patience. She doesn't know, you see, that 
I'm after all a decent girl. She simply made up 
her mind on the spot that I'm a very bad case." 

" I couldn't stand the way she treated you, and 
that was what I had to say to her," Owen returned. 

" She's simple and slow r , but she's not a fool : I 
think she treated me on the whole very well." 
Fleda remembered how Mrs. Gereth had treated 
Mona when the Brigstocks came down to Poynton. 

Owen evidently thought her painfully perverse. 
"It was you who carried it off; you behaved like 
a brick. And so did I, I consider. If you only 
knew the difficulty I had! I told her you were 
the noblest and straightest of women." 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 197 

" That can hardly have removed her impression 
that there are things I put you up to." 

"It didn't," Owen replied with candour. "She 
said our relation, yours and mine, isn't innocent." 

" What did she mean by that ? " 

"As you may suppose, I particularly inquired. 
Do you know what she had the cheek to tell me ? " 
Owen asked. " She didn't better it much. She 
said she meant that it's excessively unnatural." 

Fleda considered afresh. "Well, it is!" she 
brought out at last. 

" Then, upon my honour, it's only you who make 
it so ! " Her perversity was distinctly too much 
for him. " I mean you make it so by the way you 
keep me off." 

"Have I kept you off to-day?" Fleda sadly 
shook her head, raising her arms a little and 
dropping them. 

Her gesture of resignation gave him a pretext 
for catching at her hand, but before he could take 
it she had put it behind her. They had been 
seated together on Maggie's single sofa, and her 
movement brought her to her feet while Owen, 
looking at her reproachfully, leaned back in dis- 
couragement. "What good does it do me to be 
here when I find you only a stone ? " 

She met his eyes with all the tenderness she had 
not yet uttered, and she had not known till this 
moment how great was the accumulation. " Per- 
haps, after all," she risked, " there may be even in 
a stone still some little help for you." 



198 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

Owen sat there a minute staring at her. " Ah, 
you're beautiful, more beautiful than any one," he 
broke out, " but I'll be hanged if I can ever under- 
stand you ! On Tuesday, at your father's, you 
were beautiful as beautiful, just before I left, as 
you are at this instant. But the next day, when 
I went back, I found it had apparently meant 
nothing ; and now again that you let me come 
here and you shine at me like an angel, it doesn't 
bring you an inch nearer to saying what I want 
you to say." He remained a moment longer in 
the same position ; then he jerked himself up. 
"What I want you to say is that you like me 
what I want you to say is that you pity me." He 
sprang up and came to her. " What I want you 
to say is that you'll save me ! " 

Fleda hesitated. "Why do you need saving 
when you announced to me just now that you're 
a free man?" 

He too hesitated, but he was not checked. " It's 
just for the reason that I'm free. Don't you know 
what I mean, Miss Vetch ? I want you to marry 
me." 

Fleda, at this, put out her hand in charity ; she 
held his own, which quickly grasped it a moment, 
and if he had described her as shining at him it 
may be assumed that she shone all the more in 
her deep, still smile. " Let me hear a little more 
about your freedom first," she said. " I gather that 
Mrs. Brigstock was not wholly satisfied with the 
way you disposed of her question." 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 199 

" I dare say she wasn't. But the less she's satis- 
fied the more I'm free." 

" What bearing have her feelings, pray ? " Fleda 
asked. 

" Why, Mona's much worse than her mother, you 
know. She wants much more to give me up." 

" Then why doesn't she do it ? " 

" She will, as soon as her mother gets home and 
tells her." 

" Tells her what ? " Fleda inquired. 

" Why, that I'm in love \v\i}\you /" 

Fleda debated. " Are you so very sure she 
will ? " 

" Certainly I'm sure, with all the evidence I 
already have. That will finish her ! " Owen 
declared. 

This made his companion thoughtful again. 
" Can you take such pleasure in her being * finished ' 
a poor girl you've once loved ? " 

Owen waited long enough to take in the ques- 
tion ; then with a serenity startling even to her 
knowledge of his nature, " I don't think I can have 
really loved her, you know," he replied. 

Fleda broke into a laugh which gave him a 
surprise as visible as the emotion it represented. 
" Then how am I to know that you ' really ' love 
anybody else ? " 

" Oh, I'll show you that ! " said Owen. 

" I must take it on trust," the girl pursued. 
"And what if Mona doesn't give you up?" she 
added. 



200 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

Owen was baffled but a few seconds ; he had 
thought of everything. " Why, that's just where 
you come in." 

" To save you ? I see. You mean I must get 
rid of her for you." His blankness showed for a 
little that he felt the chill of her cold logic ; but as 
she waited for his rejoinder she knew to which of 
them it cost most. He gasped a minute, and that 
gave her time to say : " You see, Mr. Owen, how 
impossible it is to talk of such things yet ! " 

Like lightning he had grasped her arm. " You 
mean you will talk of them ? " Then as he began 
to take the flood of assent from her eyes : " You 
will listen to me ? Oh, you dear, you dear when, 
when ? " 

" Ah, when it isn't mere misery ! " The words 
had broken from her in a sudden loud cry, and 
what next happened was that the very sound of 
her pain upset her. She heard her own true note ; 
she turned short away from him ; in a moment she 
had burst into sobs ; in another his arms were 
round her ; the next she had let herself go so far 
that even Mrs. Gereth might have seen it. He 
clasped her, and she gave herself she poured out 
her tears on his breast. Something prisoned and 
pent throbbed and gushed ;' something deep and 
sweet surged up something that came from far 
within and far off, that had begun with the sight of 
him in his indifference and had never had rest 
since then. The surrender was short, but the relief 
was long : she felt his warm lips on her face and 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 201 

his arms tighten with his full divination. What 
she did, what she had done, she scarcely knew : she 
only was aware, as she broke from him again, of 
what had taken place in his panting soul. What 
had taken place was that, with the click of a spring, 
he saw. He had cleared the high wall at a bound ; 
they were together without a veil. She had not a 
shred of a secret left ; it was as if a whirlwind had 
come and gone, laying low the great false front 
that she had built up stone by stone. The strangest 
thing of all was the momentary sense of desolation. 

" Ah, all the while you cared? " Owen read the 
truth with a wonder so great that it was visibly 
almost a sadness, a terror caused by his sudden 
perception of where the impossibility was not. 
That made it all perhaps elsewhere. 

" I cared, I cared, I cared ! " Fleda moaned 

it as defiantly as if she were confessing a misdeed. 
"How couldn't I care? But you mustn't, you 
must never, never ask ! It isn't for us to talk 
about," she insisted. " Don't speak of it, don't 
speak ! " 

It was easy indeed not to speak when the diffi- 
culty was to find words. He clasped his hands 
before her as he might have clasped them at an 
altar ; his pressed palms shook together while he 
held his breath and while she stilled herself in the 
effort to come round again to the real and the right. 
He assisted this effort, soothing her into a seat 
with a touch as light as if she had really been 
something sacred. She sank into a chair and he 



202 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

dropped before her on his knees ; she fell back 
with closed eyes and he buried his face in her lap. 
There was no way to thank her but this act of 
prostration, which lasted, in silence, till she laid 
consenting hands on him, touched his head and 
stroked it, held it in her tenderness till he acknow- 
ledged his long density. He made the avowal 
seem only his made her, when she rose again, 
raise him at last, softly, as if from the abasement of 
shame. If in each other's eyes now, however, they 
saw the truth, this truth, to Fleda, looked harder 
even than before all the harder that when, at the 
very moment she recognised it, he murmured to 
her ecstatically, in fresh possession of her hands, 
which he drew up to his breast, holding them tight 
there with both his own : " I'm saved, I'm saved 
I am ! I'm ready for anything. I have your word. 
Come ! " he cried, as if from the sight of a response 
slower than he needed, and in the tone he so often 
had of a great boy at a great game. 

She had once more disengaged herself with the 
private vow that he shouldn't yet touch her again. 
It was all too horribly soon her sense of this was 
rapidly surging back. " We mustn't talk, we 
mustn't talk ; we must wait ! " she intensely insisted. 
" I don't know what you mean by your freedom ; I 
don't see it, I don't feel it. Where is it yet, where, 
your freedom ? If it's real there's plenty of time, 
and if it isn't there's more than enough. I hate 
myself," she protested, " for having anything to say 
about her : it's like waiting for dead men's shoes ! 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 203 

What business is it of mine what she does ? She 
has her own trouble and her own plan. It's too 
hideous to watch her and count on her ! " 

Owen's face, at this, showed a reviving dread, the 
fear of some darksome process of her mind. "If 
you speak for yourself I can understand. But why 
is it hideous for me ? " 

" Oh, I mean for myself! " Fleda said impatiently. 

" / watch her, 7 count on her : how can I do 
anything else? If I count on her to let me defi- 
nitely know how we stand I do nothing in life but 
what she herself has led straight up to. I never 
thought of asking you to ' get rid of her ' for me, 
and I never would have spoken to you if I hadn't 
held that I am rid of her, that she has backed out 
of the whole thing. Didn't she do so from the 
moment she began to put it off? I had already 
applied for the licence ; the very invitations were 
half addressed. Who but she, all of a sudden, 
demanded an unnatural wait? It was none of 
my doing ; I had never dreamed of anything but 
coming up to the scratch." Owen grew more and 
more lucid and more confident of the effect of his 
lucidity. " She called it ' taking a stand,' to see 
what mother would do. I told her mother would 
do what I would make her do ; and to that she 
replied that she would like to see me make her 
first. I said I would arrange that everything 
should be all right, and she said she really pre- 
ferred to arrange it herself. It was a flat refusal to 
trust me in the smallest degree. Why then had 



204 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

she pretended so tremendously to care for me? 
And of course at present," said Owen, " she trusts 
me, if possible, still less." 

Fleda paid this statement the homage of a 
minute's muteness. "As to that, naturally, she 
has reason." 

" Why on earth has she reason ? " Then, as his 
companion, moving away, simply threw up her 
hands, " I never looked at you not to call looking 
till she had regularly driven me to it," he went 
on. " I know what I'm about. I do assure you 
I'm all right ! " 

" You're not all right you're all wrong ! " Fleda 
cried in despair. " You mustn't stay here, you 
mustn't ! " she repeated with clear decision. " You 
make me say dreadful things, and I feel as if I 
made you say them." But before he could reply 
she took it up in another tone. " Why in the 
world, if everything had changed, didn't you break 
off?" 

" I ? " The inquiry seemed to have moved 
him to stupefaction. "Can you ask me that 
question when I only wanted to please you? 
Didn't you seem to show me, in your wonderful 
way, that that was exactly how ? I didn't break 
off just on purpose to leave it to Mona. I didn't 
break off so that there shouldn't be a thing to be 
said against me." 

The instant after her challenge Fleda had faced 
him again in self-reproof. " There isn't a thing to 
be said against you, and I don't know what non- 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 205 

sense you make me talk ! You have pleased me, 
and you've been right and good, and it's the only 
comfort, and you must go. Everything must come 
from Mona, and if it doesn't come we've said 
entirely too much. You must leave me alone 
forever." 

" Forever ? " Owen gasped. 

" I mean unless everything is different." 

" Everything is different, when I know you ! " 

Fleda winced at his knowledge ; she made a 
wild gesture which seemed to whirl it out of the 
room. The mere allusion was like another em- 
brace. " You don't know me you don't and you 
must go and wait ! You mustn't break down at 
this point." 

He looked about him and took up his hat : it 
was as if in spite of frustration he had got the 
essence of what he wanted and could afford to 
agree with her to the extent of keeping up the 
forms. He covered her with his fine, simple smile, 
but made no other approach. " Oh, I'm so awfully 
happy ! " he exclaimed. 

She hesitated : she would only be impeccable 
even though she should have to be sententious. 
" You'll be happy if you're perfect ! " she risked. 

He laughed out at this, and she wondered if, 
with a new-born acuteness, he saw the absurdity 
of her speech and that no one was happy just 
because no one could be what she so easily pre- 
scribed. "I don't pretend to be perfect, but I 
shall find a letter to-night ! " 



206 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

" So much the better, if it's the kind of one you 
desire." That was the most she could say, and 
having made it sound as dry as possible she lapsed 
into a silence so pointed as to deprive him of all 
pretext for not leaving her. Still, nevertheless, he 
stood there, playing with his hat and filling the 
long pause with a strained and anxious smile. He 
wished to obey her thoroughly, to appear not to 
presume on any advantage he had won from her ; 
but there was clearly something he longed for 
beside. While he showed this by hanging on she 
thought of two other things. One of these was 
that his countenance, after all, failed to bear out 
his description of his bliss. As for the other, it 
had no sooner come into her head than she found 
it seated, in spite of her resolution, on her lips. It 
took the form of an inconsequent question. " When 
did you say Mrs. Brigstock was to have gone 
back ? " 

Owen stared. "To Waterbath? She was to 
have spent the night in town, don't you know? 
But when she left me after our talk I said to myself 
that she would take an evening train. I know I 
made her want to get home." 

" Where did you separate ? " Fleda asked. 

"At the West Kensington station she was 
going to Victoria. I had walked with her there, 
and our talk was all on the way." 

Fleda pondered a moment. " If she did go back 
that night you would have heard from Waterbath 
by this time." 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 207 

" I don't know," said Owen. " I thought I might 
hear this morning." 

"She can't have gone back," Fleda declared. 
" Mona would have written on the spot." 

" Oh yes, she will have written bang off! " Owen 
cheerfully conceded. 

Fleda thought again. " So that, even in the event 
of her mother's not having got home till the 
morning you would have had your letter at the 
latest to-day. You see she has had plenty of 
time." 

Owen hesitated ; then " Oh, she's all right ! " he 
laughed. " I go by Mrs. Brigstock's certain effect 
on her the effect of the temper the old lady 
showed when we parted. Do you know what she 
asked me ? " he sociably continued. " She asked 
me in a kind of nasty manner if I supposed you 
' really ' cared anything about me. Of course I 
told her I supposed you didn't not a solitary rap. 
How could I ever suppose you do, with your 
extraordinary ways? It doesn't matter; I could 
see she thought I lied." 

"You should have told her, you know, that I 
had seen you in town only that one time," Fleda 
suggested. 

" By Jove, I did for you ! It was only for you." 

Something in this touched the girl so that for 
a moment she could not trust herself to speak. 
" You're an honest man," she said at last. She had 
gone to the door and opened it. " Good-bye." 

Even yet, however, Owen hung back. " But even 



208 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

if there's no letter " he began. He began, but 
there he left it. 

" You mean even if she doesn't let you off? Ah, 
you ask me too much ! " Fleda spoke from the tiny 
hall, where she had taken refuge between the old 
barometer and the old mackintosh. "There are 
things too utterly for yourselves alone. How can 
I tell ? What do I know ? Good-bye, good-bye ! 
If she doesn't let you off it will be because she is 
attached to you." 

" She's not, she's not : there's nothing in it ! 
Doesn't a fellow know ? except with you ! " Owen 
ruefully added. With this he came out of the 
room, lowering his voice to secret supplication, 
pleading with her really to meet him on the ground 
of the negation of Mona. It was this betrayal of 
his need of support and sanction that made her 
retreat, harden herself in the effort to save what 
might remain of all she had given, given probably 
for nothing. The very vision of him as he thus 
morally clung to her was the vision of a weakness 
somewhere in the core of his bloom, a blessed 
manly weakness of which, if she had only the valid 
right, it would be all a sweetness to take care. She 
faintly sickened, however, with the sense that 
there was as yet no valid right poor Owen 
could give. " You can take it from my honour, 
you know," he painfully brought out, " that she 
loathes me." 

Fleda had stood clutching the knob of Maggie's 
little painted stair-rail ; she took, on the stairs, a 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 209 

step backward. " Why then doesn't she prove it 
in the only clear way ? " 

" She has proved it. Will you believe it if you 
see the letter ? " 

" I don't want to see any letter," said Fleda. 
" You'll miss your train." 

Facing him, waving him away, she had taken 
another upward step ; but he sprang to the side of 
the stairs, and brought his hand, above the banister, 
down hard on her wrist. " Do you mean to tell me 
that I must marry a woman I hate ? " 

From her step she looked down into his raised 
face. " Ah, you see it's not true that you're free ! " 
She seemed almost to exult. " It's not true, it's 
not true ! " 

He only, at this, like a buffeting swimmer, gave 
a shake of his head and repeated his question : 
" Do you mean to tell me I must marry such a 
woman ? " 

Fleda hesitated ; he held her fast. " No. Any- 
thing is better than that." 

" Then, in God's name, what must I do ? " 
" You must settle that with Mona. You mustn't 
break faith. Anything is better than that. You 
must at any rate be utterly sure. She must love 
you how can she help it? / wouldn't give you 
up ! " said Fleda. She spoke in broken bits, 
panting out her words. "The great thing is to 
keep faith. Where is a man if he doesn't? If he 
doesn't he may be so cruel. So cruel, so cruel, so 
cruel ! " Fleda repeated. " I couldn't have a hand in 



2io THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

that, you know : that's my position that's mine. 
You offered her marriage. It's a tremendous thing 
for her." Then looking at him another moment, 
" / wouldn't give you up ! " she said again. He 
still had hold of her arm ; she took in his blank 
dread. With a quick dip of her face she reached 
his hand with her lips, pressing them to the back of 
it with a force that doubled the force of her words. 
" Never, never, never ! " she cried ; and before he 
could succeed in seizing her she had turned and, 
flashing up the stairs, got away from him even 
faster than she had got away at Ricks. 



XVII 

TEN days after his visit she received a com- 
munication from Mrs. Gereth a telegram of eight 
words, exclusive of signature and date. " Come 
up immediately and stay with me here" it was 
characteristically sharp, as Maggie said ; but, as 
Maggie added, it was also characteristically kind. 
" Here " was an hotel in London, and Maggie had 
embraced a condition of life which already began 
to produce in her some yearning for hotels in 
London. She would have responded in an instant, 
and she was surprised that her sister seemed to 
hesitate. Fleda's hesitation, which lasted but an 
hour, was expressed in that young lady's own 
mind by the reflection that in obeying her friend's 
summons she shouldn't know what she should be 
" in for." Her friend's summons, however, was but 
another name for her friend's appeal ; and Mrs. 
Gereth's bounty had laid her under obligations 
more sensible than any reluctance. In the event : 
that is at the end of her hour she testified to her 
gratitude by taking the train and to her mistrust 
by not taking her luggage. She went as if she 

had gone up for the day. In the train, however, 
211 



212 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

she had another thoughtful hour, during which it 
was her mistrust that mainly deepened. She felt 
as if for ten days she had sat in darkness, looking 
to the east for a dawn that had not yet glimmered. 
Her mind had lately been less occupied with Mrs. 
Gereth ; it had been so exceptionally occupied 
with Mona. If the sequel was to justify Owen's 
prevision of Mrs. Brigstock's action upon her 
daughter, this action was at the end of a week as 
much a mystery as ever. The stillness, all round, 
had been exactly what Fleda desired, but it gave 
her for the time a deep sense of failure, the sense 
of a sudden drop from a height at which she 
had had all things beneath her. She had nothing 
beneath her now; she herself was at the bottom 
of the heap. No sign had reached her from Owen 
poor Owen who had clearly no news to give 
about his precious letter from Waterbath. If Mrs. 
Brigstock had hurried back to obtain that this 
letter should be written Mrs. Brigstock might then 
have spared herself so great an inconvenience. 
Owen had been silent for the best of all reasons 
the reason that he had had nothing in life to say. 
If the letter had not been written he would simply 
have had to introduce some large qualification into 
his account of his freedom. He had left his young 
friend under her refusal to listen to him until he 
should be able, on the contrary, to extend that 
picture ; and his present submission was all in 
keeping with the rigid honesty that his young 
friend had prescribed. 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 213 

It was this that formed the element through 
which Mona loomed large ; Fleda had enough 
imagination, a fine enough feeling for life, to be 
impressed with such an image of successful im- 
mobility. The massive maiden at Waterbath was 
successful from the moment she could entertain 
her resentments as if they had been poor relations 
who needn't put her to expense. She was a 
magnificent dead weight ; there was something 
positive and portentous in her quietude. "What 
game are they all playing ? " poor Fleda could 
only ask ; for she had an intimate conviction that 
Owen was now under the roof of his betrothed. 
That was stupefying if he really hated Mona ; and 
if he didn't really hate her what had brought him 
to Raphael Road and to Maggie's ? Fleda had no 
real light, but she felt that to account for the absence 
of any result of their last meeting would take a 
supposition of the full sacrifice to charity that she 
had held up before him. If he had gone to 
Waterbath it had been simply because he had to 
go. She had as good as told him that he would 
have to go ; that this was an inevitable incident of 
his keeping perfect faith faith so literal that the 
smallest subterfuge would always be a reproach to 
him. When she tried to remember that it was for 
herself he was taking his risk she felt how weak a 
way that was of expressing Mona's supremacy. 
There would be no need of keeping him up if there 
was nothing to keep him up to. Her eyes grew 
wan as she discerned in the impenetrable air that 



214 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

Mona's thick outline never wavered an inch. She 
wondered fitfully what Mrs. Gereth had by this 
time made of it, and reflected with a strange 
elation that the sand on which the mistress of 
Ricks had built a momentary triumph was quaking 
beneath the surface. As The Morning Post still 
held its peace she would be of course more con- 
fident ; but the hour was at hand at which Owen 
would have absolutely to do either one thing or the 
other. To keep perfect faith was to inform against 
his mother, and to hear the police at her door 
would be Mrs. Gereth's awakening. How much 
she was beguiled Fleda could see from her having 
been for a whole month quite as deep and dark as 
Mona. She had left her young friend alone be- 
cause of the certitude, cultivated at Ricks, that 
Owen had done the opposite. He had done the 
opposite indeed, but much good had that brought 
forth ! To have sent for her now, Fleda felt, was 
from this point of view wholly natural : she had 
sent for her to show at last how much she had 
scored. If, however, Owen was really at Waterbath 
the refutation of that boast was easy. 

Fleda found Mrs. Gereth in modest apartments 
and with an air of fatigue in her distinguished face, 
a sign, as she privately remarked, of the strain of 
that effort to be discreet of which she herself had 
been having the benefit. It was a constant feature 
of their relation that this lady could make Fleda 
blench a little, and that the effect proceeded from 
the intense pressure of her confidence. If the 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 215 

confidence had been heavy even when the girl, in 
the early flush of devotion, had been able to feel 
herself most responsive, it drew her heart into her 
mouth now that she had reserves and conditions, 
now that she couldn't simplify with the same bold 
hand as her protectress. In the very brightening 
of the tired look and at the moment of their 
embrace Fleda felt on her shoulders the return of 
the load ; whereupon her spirit quailed as she asked 
herself what she had brought up from her trusted 
seclusion to support it. Mrs. Gereth's free manner 
always made a joke of weakness, and there was in 
such a welcome a richness, a kind of familiar 
nobleness that suggested shame to a harried con- 
science. Something had happened, she could see, 
and she could also see, in the bravery that seemed 
to announce it had changed everything, a formid- 
able assumption that what had happened was 
what a healthy young woman must like. The 
absence of luggage had made this young woman 
feel meagre even before her companion, taking 
in the bareness at a second glance, exclaimed 
upon it and roundly rebuked her. Of course she 
had expected her to stay. 

Fleda thought best to show bravery too and to 
show it from the first. " What you expected, dear 
Mrs. Gereth, is exactly what I came up to ascer- 
tain. It struck me as right to do that first. 
Right, I mean, to ascertain without making 
preparations." 

" Then you'll be so good as to make them on the 



2i6 THE SPOILS OF POYNTOX 

spot ! " Mrs. Gereth was most emphatic. " You're 
going abroad with me." 

Fleda wondered, but she also smiled. " To-night 
to-morrow ? " 

" In as few days as possible. That's all that's 
left for me now." Fleda's heart, at this, gave a 
bound ; she wondered to what particular difference 
in Mrs. Gereth's situation as last known to her it 
was an allusion. " I've made my plan," her friend 
continued : " I go for at least a year. We shall go 
straight to Florence ; we can manage there. I of 
course don't look to you, however," she added, " to 
stay with me all that time. That will require to 
be settled. Owen will have to join us as soon as 
possible ; he may not be quite ready to get off with 
us. But I'm convinced it's quite the right thing to 
go. It will make a good change ; it will put in a 
decent interval." 

Fleda listened ; she was deeply mystified. " How 
kind you are to me ! " she presently said. The 
picture suggested so many questions that she 
scarcely knew which to ask first. She took one at 
a venture. " You really have it from Mr. Gereth 
that he'll give us his company ? " 

If Mr. Gereth's mother smiled in response to 
this Fleda knew that her smile was a tacit criticism 
of such a form of reference to her son. Fleda 
habitually spoke of him as Mr. Owen, and it was 
a part of her present vigilance to appear to have 
relinquished that right. Mrs. Gereth's manner 
confirmed a certain impression of her pretending 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 217 

to more than she felt ; her very first words had 
conveyed it, and it reminded Fleda of the conscious 
courage with which, weeks before, the lady had met 
her visitor's first startled stare at the clustered 
spoils of Poynton. It was her practice to take 
immensely for granted whatever she wished. " Oh, 
if you'll answer for him, it will do quite as well ! " 
she said. Then she put her hands on the girl's 
shoulders and held them at arm's length, as if to 
shake them a little, while in the depths of her 
shining eyes Fleda discovered something obscure 
and unquiet. "You bad, false thing, why didn't 
you tell me ? " Her tone softened her harshness, 
and her visitor had never had such a sense of her 
indulgence. Mrs. Gereth could show patience ; it 
was a part of the general bribe, but it was also 
like the handing in of a heavy bill before which 
Fleda could only fumble in a penniless pocket. 
" You must perfectly have known at Ricks, and 
yet you practically denied it. That's why I call 
you bad and false ! " It was apparently also why 
she again almost roughly kissed her. 

" I think that before I answer you I had better 
know what you're talking about," Fleda said. 

Mrs. Gereth looked at her with a slight increase 
of hardness. " You've done everything you need 
for modesty, my dear ! If he's sick with love of 
you, you haven't had to wait for me to inform 
you." 

Fleda hesitated. " Has he informed you, dear 
Mrs. Gereth?" 



218 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

Dear Mrs. Gereth smiled sweetly. " How could 
he when our situation is such that he communi- 
cates with me only through you and that you are 
so tortuous you conceal everything ? " 

" Didn't he answer the note in which you let 
him know that I was in town ? " Fleda asked. 

" He answered it sufficiently by rushing off on 
the spot to see you." 

Mrs. Gereth met that allusion with a prompt 
firmness that made almost insolently light of any 
ground of complaint, and Fleda's own sense of 
responsibility was now so vivid that all resent- 
ments turned comparatively pale. She had no 
heart to produce a grievance ; she could only, left 
as she was with the little mystery on her hands, 
produce after a moment a question. " How then do 
you come to know that your son has ever thought " 

" That he would give his ears to get you ? " 
Mrs. Gereth broke in. " I had a visit from Mrs. 
Brigstock." 

Fleda opened her eyes. "She went down to 
Ricks ? " 

" The day after she had found Owen at your 
feet. She knows everything." 

Fleda shook her head sadly : she was more 
startled than she cared to show. This odd journey 
of Mrs. Brigstock's, which, with a simplicity equal 
for once to Owen's, she had not divined, now 
struck her as having produced the hush of the 
last ten days. " There are things she doesn't 
know ! " she presently exclaimed. 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 219 

" She knows he would do anything to marry 
you." 

" He hasn't told her so," Fleda said. 

" No, but he has told you. That's better still ! " 
laughed Mrs. Gereth. " My dear child," she went 
on with an air that affected the girl as a- sort of 
blind profanity, " don't try to make yourself out 
better than you are. / know what you are 
I haven't lived with you so much for nothing. 
You're not quite a saint in heaven yet. Lord, 
what a creature you'd have thought me in my 
good time ! But you do like it fortunately, 
you idiot. You're pale with your passion, you 
sweet thing. That's exactly what I wanted to 
see. I can't for the life of me think where the 
shame comes in." Then with a finer significance, 
a look that seemed to Fleda strange she added : 
" It's all right." 

" I've seen him but twice," said Fleda. 

" But twice ? " Mrs. Gereth still smiled. 

" On the occasion, at papa's, that Mrs. Brig- 
stock ' told you of, and one day, since then, down 
at Maggie's." 

" Well, those things are between yourselves, 
and you seem to me both poor creatures at best." 
Mrs. Gereth spoke with a rich humour which 
tipped with light for an instant the real conviction. 
" I don't know what you've got in your veins. 
You absurdly exaggerate the difficulties. But 
enough is as good as a feast, and when once I 
get you abroad together ! " She checked herself 



220 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

as if from excess of meaning ; what might happen 
when she should get them abroad together was 
to be gathered only from the way she slowly 
rubbed her hands. 

The gesture, however, made the promise so defi- 
nite that for a moment her companion was almost 
beguiled. But there was nothing to account as 
yet for the wealth of Mrs. Gereth's certitude : 
the visit of the lady of Waterbath appeared 
but half to explain it. " Is it permitted to be 
surprised," Fleda deferentially asked, "at Mrs. 
Brigstock's thinking it would help her to see 
you ? " 

" It's never permitted to be surprised at the 
aberrations of born fools," said Mrs. Gereth. "If 
a cow should try to calculate, that's the kind of 
happy thought she'd have. Mrs. Brigstock came 
down to plead with me." 

Fleda mused a moment. " That's what she 
came to do with me" she then honestly returned. 
" But what did she expect to get of you, with your 
opposition so marked from the first ? " 

" She didn't know I want you t my dear. It's 
a wonder, with all my violence the gross publicity 
I've given my desires. But she's as stupid as an 
owl she doesn't feel your charm." 

Fleda felt herself flush slightly, but she tried 
to smile. "Did you tell her all about it? Did 
you make her understand you want me ? " 

" For what do you take me ? I wasn't such a 
donkey," 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 221 

"So as not to aggravate Mona?" Fleda sug- 
gested. 

" So as not to aggravate Mona, naturally. 
We've had a narrow course to steer, but thank 
God we're at last in the open ! " 

"What do you call the open, Mrs. Gereth?" 
Fleda demanded. Then as that lady faltered : 
" Do you know where Mr. Owen is to-day ? " 

Mrs. Gereth stared. " Do you mean he's at 
Waterbath ? Well, that's your own affair. I can 
bear it if you can." 

" Wherever he is I can bear it," Fleda said. 
4< But I haven't the least idea where he is." 

" Then you ought to be ashamed of yourself ! ' 
Mrs. Gereth broke out with a change of note 
that showed how deep a passion underlay every- 
thing she had said. The poor woman, catching 
her companion's hand, however, the next moment, 
as if to retract something of this harshness, spoke 
more patiently. " Don't you understand, Fleda, 
how immensely, how devotedly I've trusted you ! " 
Her tone was indeed a supplication. 

Fleda was infinitely shaken ; she was silent a 
little. "Yes, I understand. Did she go to you 
to complain of me ? " 

" She came to see what she could do. She had 
been tremendously upset the day before by what 
had taken place at your father's, and she had 
posted down to Ricks on the inspiration of the 
moment. She hadn't meant it on leaving home ; 
it was the sight of you closeted there with Owen 



222 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

that had suddenly determined her. The whole 
story, she said, was written in your two faces : 
she spoke as if she had never seen such an 
exhibition. Owen was on the brink, but there 
might still be time to save him, and it was with 
this idea she had bearded me in my den. * What 
won't a mother do, you know ? ' that was one of 
the things she said. What wouldn't a mother do 
indeed? I thought I had sufficiently shown her 
what ! She tried to break me down by an appeal 
to my good-nature, as she called it, and from the 
moment she opened on you> from the moment she 
denounced Owen's falsity, I was as good-natured 
as she could wish. I understood that it was a plea 
for mere mercy, that you and he between you were 
killing her child. Of course I was delighted that 
Mona should be killed, but I was studiously kind 
to Mrs. Brigstock. At the same time I was honest, 
I didn't pretend to anything I couldn't feel. I 
asked her why the marriage hadn't taken place 
months ago, when Owen was perfectly ready ; 
and I showed her how completely that fatuous 
mistake on Mona's part cleared his responsibility. 
It was she who had killed him it was she who 
had destroyed his affection, his illusions. Did she 
want him now when he was estranged, when he 
was disgusted, when he had a sore grievance? 
She reminded me that Mona had a sore grievance 
too, but she admitted that she hadn't come to me 
to speak of that. What she had come to me for 
was not to get the old things back, but simply to 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 223 

get Owen. What she wanted was that I would, 
in simple pity, see fair play. Owen had been 
awfully bedevilled she didn't call it that, she 
called it * misled ' ; but it was simply you who had 
bedevilled him. He would be all right still if I 
would see that you were out of the way. She 
asked me point-blank if it was possible I could 
want him to marry you." 

Fleda had listened in unbearable pain and grow- 
ing terror, as if her interlocutress, stone by stone, 
were piling some fatal mass upon her breast. She 
had the sense of being buried alive, smothered in 
the mere expansion of another will ; and now 
there was but one gap left to the air. A single 
word, she felt, might close it, and with the question 
that came to her lips as Mrs. Gereth paused she 
seemed to herself to ask, in cold dread, for her 
doom. " What did you say to that ? " she inquired. 

" I was embarrassed, for I saw my danger the 
danger of her going home and saying to Mona 
that I was backing you up. It had been a bliss to 
learn that Owen had really turned to you, but my 
joy didn't put me off my guard. I reflected in- 
tensely for a few seconds ; then I saw my issue." 

" Your issue ? " Fleda murmured. 

" I remembered how you had tied my hands 
about saying a word to Owen." 

Fleda wondered. " And did you remember.- the 
little letter that, with your hands tied, you still 
succeeded in writing to him ? " 

"Perfectly; my little letter was a model of 



224 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

reticence. What I remembered was all that in those 
few words I forbade myself to say. I had been an 
angel of delicacy I had effaced myself like a saint. 
It was not for me to have done all that and then 
figure to such a woman as having done the opposite. 
Besides, it was none of her business." 

"Is that what you said to her ? " Fleda asked. 

" I said to her that her question revealed a 
total misconception of the nature of my present 
relations with my son. I said to her that I had 
no relations with him at all and that nothing had 
passed between us for months. I said to her that 
my hands were spotlessly clean of any attempt 
to make up to you. I said to her that I had 
taken from Poynton what I had a right to take, 
but had done nothing else in the world. I was 
determined that if I had bit my tongue off to 
oblige you I would at least have the righteousness 
that my sacrifice gave me." 

" And was Mrs. Brigstock satisfied with your 
answer ? " 

" She was visibly relieved." 

"It was fortunate for you," said Fleda, " that 
she's apparently not aware of the manner in which, 
almost under her nose, you advertised me to him 
at Poynton." 

Mrs. Gereth appeared to recall that scene ; she 
smiled with a serenity remarkably effective as 
showing how cheerfully used she had grown to 
invidious allusions to it. " How should she be 
aware of it ? " 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 225 

" She would if Owen had described your outbreak 
to Mona." 

" Yes, but he didn't describe it. All his instinct 
was to conceal it from Mona. He wasn't conscious, 
but he was already in love with you ! " Mrs. Gereth 
declared. 

Fleda shook her head wearily. " No I was only 
in love with him ! " 

Here was a faint illumination with which Mrs. 
Gereth instantly mingled her fire. " You dear old 
wretch ! " she exclaimed ; and she again, with 
ferocity, embraced her young friend. 

Fleda submitted like a sick animal : she would 
submit to everything now. "Then what further 
passed ? " 

"Only that she left me thinking she had got 
something." 

"And what had she got?" 

"Nothing but her luncheon. But / got every- 
thing!" 

" Everything ? " Fleda quavered. 

Mrs. Gereth, struck apparently by something in 
her tone, looked at her from a tremendous height. 
" Don't fail me now ! " 

It sounded so like a menace that, with a full 
divination at last, the poor girl fell weakly into a 
chair. " What on earth have you done ? " 

Mrs. Gereth stood there in all the glory of a 
great stroke. "I've settled you." She filled the 
room, to Fleda's scared vision, with the glare of 
her magnificence. " I've sent everything back." 

Q 



226 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

" Everything ? " Fleda gasped. 

" To the smallest snuff-box. The last load went 
yesterday. The same people did it. Poor little 
Ricks is empty." Then as if, for a crowning 
splendour, to check all deprecation, " They're yours, 
you goose ! " Mrs. Gereth concluded, holding up 
her handsome head and rubbing her white hands. 
Fleda saw that there were tears in her deep eyes. 






XVIII 

SHE was slow to take in the announcement, 
but when she had done so she felt it to be more 
than her cup of bitterness would hold. Her 
bitterness was her anxiety, the taste of which 
suddenly sickened her. What had she on the 
spot become but a traitress to her friend ? 
The treachery increased with the view of the 
friend's motive, a motive superb as a tribute to her 
value. Mrs. Gereth had wished to make sure of 
her and had reasoned that there would be no such 
way as by a large appeal to her honour. If it be 
true, as men have declared, that the sense of honour 
is weak in women, some of the bearings of this 
stroke might have thrown a light on the question. 
What was now at all events put before Fleda was 
that she had been made sure of, for the greatness 
of the surrender imposed an obligation as great. 
There was an expression she had heard used by 
young men with whom she danced : the only word 
to fit Mrs. Gereth's intention was that Mrs. Gereth 
had designed to " fetch " her. It was a calculated, 

it was a crushing bribe ; it looked her in the eyes 
227 



228 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

and said simply: "That's what I do for you!" 
What Fleda was to do in return required no point- 
ing out. The sense at present of how little she 
had done made her almost cry aloud with pain ; 
but her first endeavour in face of the fact was to 
keep such a cry from reaching her companion. 
How little she had done Mrs. Gereth didn't yet 
know, and possibly there would be still some way 
of turning round before the discovery. On her 
own side too Fleda had almost made one : she had 
known she was wanted, but she had not after all 
conceived how magnificently much. She had 
been treated by her friend's act as a conscious 
prize, but what made her a conscious prize was 
only the power the act itself imputed to her. As 
high, bold diplomacy it dazzled and carried her off 
her feet. She admired the noble risk of it, a risk 
Mrs. Gereth had faced for the utterly poor creature 
that the girl now felt herself. The change it 
instantly wrought in her was moreover extraordin- 
ary : it transformed at a touch her emotion on 
the subject of concessions. A few weeks earlier 
she had jumped at the duty of pleading for them, 
practically quarrelling with the lady of Ricks for 
her refusal to restore what she had taken. She 
had been sore with the wrong to Owen, she had 
bled with the wounds of Poynton ; now, however, 
as she heard of the replenishment of the void that 
had so haunted her, she came as near sounding an 
alarm as if from the deck of a ship she had seen a 
person she loved jump into the sea. Mrs. Gereth 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 229 

had become in a flash the victim ; poor little Ricks 
had been laid bare in a night. If Fleda's feeling 
about the old things had taken precipitate form the 
form would have been a frantic command. It was 
indeed for mere want of breath that she didn't 
shout : " Oh, stop them it's no use ; bring them 
back it's too late ! " And what most kept her 
breathless was her companion's very grandeur. 
Fleda distinguished as never before the purity of 
such a passion ; it made Mrs. Gereth august and 
almost sublime. It was absolutely unselfish she 
cared nothing for mere possession. She thought 
solely and incorruptibly of what was best for the 
things ; she had surrendered them to the presump- 
tive care of the one person of her acquaintance who 
felt about them as she felt herself, and whose long 
lease of the future would be the nearest approach 
that could be compassed to committing them to a 
museum. Now it was indeed that Fleda knew 
what rested on her ; now it was also that she 
measured as if for the first time Mrs. Gereth's view 
of the natural influence of a fine acquisition. She 
had adopted the idea of blowing away the last 
doubt of what her young friend would gain, of 
making good still more than she was obliged to 
make it the promise of weeks before. It was one 
thing for the girl to have heard that in a certain 
event restitution would be made ; it was another 
for her to see the condition, with a noble trust, 
treated in advance as performed, and to be able to 
feel that she should have only to open a door to 



230 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

find every old piece in every old corner. To have 
played such a card was therefore, for Mrs. Gereth, 
practically to have won the game. Fleda had 
certainly to recognise that, so far as the theory of 
the matter went, the game had been won. Oh, she 
had been made sure of! 

She couldn't, however, succeed for so very many 
minutes in deferring her exposure. "Why didn't 
you wait, dearest ? Ah, why didn't you wait ? " 
if that inconsequent appeal kept rising to her lips 
to be cut short before it was spoken, this was only 
because at first the humility of gratitude helped 
her to gain time, enabled her to present herself 
very honestly as too overcome to be clear. She 
kissed her companion's hands, she did homage 
at her feet, she murmured soft snatches of praise, 
and yet in the midst of it all was conscious that 
what she really showed most was the wan despair 
at her heart. She saw Mrs. Gereth's glimpse of 
this despair suddenly widen, heard the quick chill 
of her voice pierce through the false courage of 
endearments. "Do you mean to tell me at such 
an hour as this that you've really lost him ? " 

The tone of the question made the idea a possi- 
bility for which Fleda had nothing from this mo- 
ment but terror. " I don't know, Mrs. Gereth ; 
how can I say?" she asked. "I've not seen him 
for so long ; as I told you just now, I don't even 
know where he is. That's by no fault of his," she 
hurried on : " he would have been with me every 
day if I had consented. But I made him under- 



THE' SPOILS OF POYNTON 231 

stand, the last time, that I'll receive him again only 
when he's able to show me that his release has 
been complete and definite. Oh, he can't yet, 
don't you see? and that's why he hasn't been 
back. It's far better than his coming only that we 
should both be miserable. When he does come 
he'll be in a better position. He'll be tremendously 
moved by the splendid thing you've done. I know 
you wish me to feel that you've done it as much 
for me as for Owen, but your having done it for me 
is just what will delight him most! When he 
hears of it," said Fleda, in desperate optimism, 
" when he hears of it " There indeed, regretting 
her advance, she quite broke down. She was 
wholly powerless to say what Owen would do 
when he heard of it. " I don't know what he won't 
make of you and how he won't hug you ! " she had 
to content herself with lamely declaring. She had 
drawn Mrs. Gereth to a sofa with a vague instinct 
of pacifying her and still, after all, gaining time ; 
but it was a position in which her great duped 
benefactress, portentously patient again during this 
demonstration, looked far from inviting a "hug." 
Fleda found herself tricking out the situation with 
artificial flowers, trying to talk even herself into 
the fancy that Owen, whose name she now made 
simple and sweet, might come in upon them at any 
moment. She felt an immense need to be under- 
stood and justified ; she averted her face in dread 
from all that she might have to be forgiven. She 
pressed on her companion's arm as if to keep her 



232 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

quiet till she should really know, and then, after a 
minute, she poured out the clear essence of what in 
happier days had been her " secret." " You mustn't 
think I don't adore him when I've told him so 
to his face. I love him so that I'd die for him I 
love him so that it's horrible. Don't look at me 
therefore as if I had not been kind, as if I had not 
been as tender as if he were dying and my tender- 
ness were what would save him. Look at me as 
if you believe me, as if you feel what I've been 
through. Darling Mrs. Gereth, I could kiss the 
ground he walks on. I haven't a rag of pride ; 
I used to have, but it's gone. I used to have a 
secret, but every one knows it now, and any one 
who looks at me can say, I think, what's the matter 
with me. It's not so very fine, my secret, and the 
less one really says about it the better ; but I want 
you to have it from me because I was stiff before. 
I want you to see for yourself that I've been 
brought as low as a girl can very well be. It 
serves me right," Fleda laughed, "if I was ever 
proud and horrid to you ! I don't know what you 
wanted me, in those days at Ricks, to do, but I 
don't think you can have wanted much more than 
what I've done. The other day at Maggie's I did 
things that made me afterwards think of you ! I 
don't know what girls may do ; but if he doesn't 
know that there isn't an inch of me that isn't- 
his !" Fleda sighed as if she couldn't express 
it ; she piled it up, as she would have said ; hold- 
ing Mrs. Gereth with dilated eyes she seemed to 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 233 

sound her for the effect of these professions. " It's 
idiotic," she wearily smiled ; " it's so strange that 
I'm almost angry for it, and the strangest part of 
all is that it isn't even happiness. It's anguish 
it was from the first ; from the first there was a 
bitterness and a kind of dread. But I owe you 
every word of the truth. You don't do him justice 
either : he's a dear, I assure you he's a dear. I'd 
trust him to the last breath ; I don't think you 
really know him. He's ever so much cleverer than 
he makes a show of; he's remarkable in his own 
shy way. You told me at Ricks that you wanted 
me to let myself go, and I've 'gone' quite far 
enough to discover as much as that, as well as all 
sorts of other delightful things about him. You'll 
tell me I make myself out worse than I am," said 
the girl, feeling more and more in her companion's 
attitude a quality that treated her speech as a 
desperate rigmarole and even perhaps as a piece 
of cold immodesty. She wanted to make herself 
out " bad " it was a part of her justification ; but 
it suddenly occurred to her that such a picture 
of her extravagance imputed a want of gallantry 
to the young man. " I don't care for anything you 
think," she declared, "because Owen, don't you 
know? sees me as I am. He's so kind that it 
makes up for everything ! " 

This attempt at gaiety was futile; the silence 
with which for a minute her adversary greeted her 
troubled plea brought home to her afresh that she 
was on the bare defensive. "Is it a part of his 



234 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

kindness never to come near you?" Mrs. Gereth 
inquired at last. " Is it a part of his kindness to 
leave you without an inkling of where he is ? " 
She rose again from where Fleda had kept her 
down ; she seemed to tower there in the majesty of 
her gathered wrong. " Is it a part of his kindness 
that after I've toiled as I've done for six days, and 
with my own weak hands, which I haven't spared, 
to denude myself, in your interest, to that point 
that I've nothing left, as I may say, but what I 
have on my back is it a part of his kindness that 
you're not even able to produce him for me ? " 

There was a high contempt in this which was 
for Owen quite as much, and in the light of which 
Fleda felt that her effort at plausibility had been 
mere grovelling. She rose from the sofa with a 
humiliated sense of rising from ineffectual knees. 
That discomfort, however, lived but an instant : it 
was swept away in a rush of loyalty to the absent. 
She herself could bear his mother's scorn ; but to 
avert it from his sweet innocence she broke out 
with a quickness that was like the raising of an 
arm. " Don't blame him don't blame him : he'd 
do anything on earth for me ! It was I," said 
Fleda eagerly, " who sent him back to her ; I 
made him go ; I pushed him out of the house ; I 
declined to have anything to say to him except on 
another footing." 

Mrs. Gereth stared as at some gross material 
ravage. " Another footing ? What other footing ? " 

"The one I've already made so clear to you : my 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 235 

having it in black and white, as you may say, from 
her that she freely gives him up." 

" Then you think he lies when he tells you that 
he has recovered his liberty ? " 

Fleda hesitated a moment ; after which she ex- 
claimed with a certain hard pride : " He's enough 
in love with me for anything ! " 

"For anything apparently except to act like a 
man and impose his reason and his will on your 
incredible folly. For anything except to put an 
end, as any man worthy of the name would have 
put it, to your systematic, to your idiotic perver- 
sity. What are you, after all, my dear, I should 
like to know, that a gentleman who offers you what 
Owen offers should have to meet such wonderful 
exactions, to take such extraordinary precautions 
about your sweet little scruples ? " Her resentment 
rose to a strange insolence which Fleda took full 
in the face and which, for the moment at least, had 
the horrible force to present to her vengefully a 
showy side of the truth. It gave her a blinding 
glimpse of lost alternatives. " I don't know what 
to think of him," Mrs. Gereth went on ; "I don't 
know what to call him : I'm so ashamed of him 
that I can scarcely speak of him even to you. But 
indeed I'm so ashamed of you both together that I 
scarcely know in common decency where to look." 
She paused to give Fleda the full benefit of this 
remarkable statement ; then she exclaimed : " Any 
one but a jackass would have tucked you under his 
arm and marched you off to the Registrar ! " 



236 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

Fleda wondered ; with her free imagination she 
could wonder even while her cheek stung from a 
slap. " To the Registrar ? " 

"That would have been the sane, sound, imme- 
diate course to adopt. With a grain of gumption 
you'd both instantly have felt it. / should have 
found a way to take you, you know, if I'd been 
what Owen is supposed to be. / should have got 
the business over first ; the rest could come when 
you liked ! Good God, girl, your place was to 
stand before me as a woman honestly married. 
One doesn't know what one has hold of in touch- 
ing you, and you must excuse my saying that 
you're literally unpleasant to me to meet as you 
are. Then at least we could have talked, and 
Owen, if he had the ghost of a sense of humour, 
could have snapped his fingers at your refinements." 

This stirring speech affected our young lady as 
if it had been the shake of a tambourine borne 
towards her from a gipsy dance : her head seemed 
to go round and she felt a sudden passion in her 
feet. The emotion, however, was but meagrely 
expressed in the flatness with which she heard 
herself presently say : " I'll go to the Registrar 
now." 

"Now?" Magnificent was the sound Mrs. Gereth 
threw into this monosyllable. "And pray who's to 
take you? " Fleda gave a colourless smile, and her 
companion continued : " Do you literally mean 
that you can't put your hand upon him ? " Fleda's 
wan grimace appeared to irritate her ; she made a 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 237 

short, imperious gesture. " Find him for me, you 
fov\find him for me ! " 

" What do you want of him," Fleda sadly asked, 
" feeling as you do to both of us ? " 

" Never mind how I feel, and never mind what 
I say when I'm furious ! " Mrs. Gereth still more 
incisively added. " Of course I cling to you, you 
wretches, or I shouldn't suffer as I do. What I 
want of him is to see that he takes you ; what I 
want of him is to go with you myself to the place." 
She looked round the room as if, in feverish haste, 
for a mantle to catch up ; she bustled to the window 
as if to spy out a cab : she would allow half-an- 
hour for the job. Already in her bonnet, she had 
snatched from the sofa a garment for the street : 
she jerked it on as she came back. " Find him, 
find him," she repeated ; " come straight out with 
me, to try, at least, to get at him ! " 

" How can I get at him ? He'll come when he's 
ready," Fleda replied. 

Mrs. Gereth turned on her sharply. " Ready for 
what ? Ready to see me ruined without a reason 
or a reward ? " 

Fleda was silent ; the worst of it all was that 
there was something unspoken between them. 
Neither of them dared to utter it, but the influence 
of it was in the girl's tone when she returned at 
last, with great gentleness : " Don't be harsh to me 
I'm very unhappy." The words produced a 
visible impression on Mrs. Gereth, who held her 
face averted and sent off through the window a 



238 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

gaze that kept pace with the long caravan of her 
treasures. Fleda knew she was watching it wind 
up the avenue of Poynton Fleda participated 
indeed fully in the vision ; so that after a little 
the most consoling thing seemed to her to add : 
" I don't see why in the world you take so for 
granted that he's, as you say, ' lost.' " 

Mrs. Gereth continued to stare out of the 
window, and her stillness denoted some success 
in controlling herself. "If he's not lost, why are 
you unhappy?" 

" I'm unhappy because I torment you and you 
don't understand me." 

" No, Fleda, I don't understand you," said Mrs. 
Gereth, finally facing her again. " I don't under- 
stand you at all, and it's as if you and Owen were 
of quite another race and another flesh. You 
make me feel very old-fashioned and simple and 
bad. But you must take me as I am, since you 
take so much else with me ! " She spoke now with 
the drop of her resentment, with a dry and weary 
calm. " It would have been better for me if I had 
never known you," she pursued, "and certainly 
better if I hadn't taken such an extraordinary 
fancy to you. But that too was inevitable : every- 
thing, I suppose, is inevitable. It was all my own 
doing you didn't run after me : I pounced on 
you and caught you up. You're a stiff little beggar, 
in spite of your pretty manners : yes, you're hide- 
ously misleading. I hope you feel how handsome 
it is of me to recognise the independence of your 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 239 

character. It was your clever sympathy that did 
it your extraordinary feeling for those accursed 
vanities. You were sharper about them than any 
one I had ever known, and that was a thing I 
simply couldn't resist. Well," the poor lady con- 
cluded after a pause, " you see where it has landed 
us!" 

" If you'll go for him yourself I'll wait here," said 
Fleda. 

Mrs. Gereth, holding her mantle together, ap- 
peared for a while to consider. " To his club, do 
you mean ? " 

" Isn't it there, when he's in town, that he has 
a room? He has at present no other London 
address," Fleda said. " It's there one writes to 
him." 

" How do / know, with my wretched relations 
with him ? " Mrs. Gereth asked. 

"Mine have not been quite so bad as that," 
Fleda desperately smiled. Then she added : " His 
silence, her silence, our hearing nothing at all 
what are these but the very things on which, at 
Poynton and at Ricks, you rested your assurance 
that everything is at an end between them ? " 

Mrs. Gereth looked dark and void. " Yes, but I 
hadn't heard from you then that you could invent 
nothing better than, as you call it, to send him 
back to her." 

" Ah, but, on the other hand, you've learned 
from them what you didn't know you've learned 
by Mrs. Brigstock's visit that he cares for me." 



240 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

Fleda found herself in the position of availing 
herself of optimistic arguments that she formerly 
had repudiated ; her refutation of her companion 
had completely changed its ground. She was in 
a fever of ingenuity and painfully conscious, on 
behalf of her success, that her fever was visible. 
She could herself see the reflection of it glitter in 
Mrs. Gereth's sombre eyes. 

" You plunge me in stupefaction," that lady 
answered, " and at the same time you terrify me. 
Your account of Owen is inconceivable, and yet I 
don't know what to hold on by. He cares for you, 
it does appear, and yet in the same breath you in- 
form me that nothing is more possible than that 
he's spending these days at Waterbath. Excuse 
me if I'm so dull as not to see my way in such 
darkness. If he's at Waterbath he doesn't care for 
you. If he cares for you he's not at Waterbath." 

" Then where is he ? " poor Fleda helplessly 
wailed. She caught herself up, however ; she did 
her best to be brave and clear. Before Mrs. 
Gereth could reply, with due obviousness, that 
this was a question for her not to ask but to 
answer, she found an air of assurance to say : " You 
simplify far too much. You always did and you 
always will. The tangle of life is much more 
intricate than you've ever, I think, felt it to be. 
You slash into it," cried Fleda finely, "with a 
great pair of shears ; you nip at it as if you were 
one of the Fates ! If Owen's at Waterbath he's 
there to wind everything up." 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 24! 

Mrs. Gereth shook her head with slow austerity. 
"You don't believe a word you're saying. I've 
frightened you, as you've frightened me: you're 
whistling in the dark to keep up our courage. I 
do simplify, doubtless, if to simplify is to fail to 
comprehend the insanity of a passion that bewilders 
a young blockhead with bugaboo barriers, with 
hideous and monstrous sacrifices. I can only re- 
peat that you're beyond me. Your perversity's a 
thing to howl over. However," the poor woman 
continued with a break in her voice, a long hesita- 
tion and then the dry triumph of her will, " I'll 
never mention it to you again ! Owen I can just 
make out ; for Owen is a blockhead. Owen's a 
blockhead," she repeated with a quiet, tragic 
finality, looking straight into Fleda's eyes. " I 
don't know why you dress up so the fact that 
he's disgustingly weak." 

Fleda hesitated ; at last, before her companion's, 
she lowered her look. " Because I love him. It's 
because he's weak that he needs me," she added. 

"That was why his father, whom he exactly 
resembles, needed me. And I didn't fail his father," 
said Mrs. Gereth. She gave Fleda a moment to 
appreciate the remark ; after which she pursued : 
" Mona Brigstock isn't weak. She's stronger than 
you ! " 

" I never thought she was weak," Fleda answered* 
She looked vaguely round the room with a new 
purpose : she had lost sight of her umbrella. 

" I did tell you to let yourself go, but it's clear 



242 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

enough that you really haven't," Mrs. Gereth de- 
clared. " If Mona has got him " 

Fleda had accomplished her search ; her inter- 
locutress paused. "If Mona has got him ? " the 
girl inquired, tightening the umbrella. 

" Well," said Mrs. Gereth profoundly, " it will be 
clear enough that Mona has'' 

" Has let herself go ? " 

" Has let herself go." Mrs. Gereth spoke as if 
she saw it in every detail. 

Fleda felt the tone and finished her preparation ; 
then she went and opened the door. " We'll look 
for him together," she said to her friend, who stood 
a moment taking in her face. " They may know 
something about him at the Colonel's." 

"We'll go there." Mrs. Gereth had picked up 
her gloves and her purse. " But the first thing," 
she went on, " will be to wire to Poynton." 

" Why not to Waterbath at once ? " Fleda asked. 

Her companion hesitated. " In your name ? " 

" In my name. I noticed a place at the corner." 

While Fleda held the door open Mrs. Gereth 
drew on her gloves. " Forgive me," she presently 
said. " Kiss me," she added. 

Fleda, on the threshold, kissed her. Then they 
both went out. 



XIX 

IN the place at the corner, on the chance of its 
saving time, Fleda wrote her telegram wrote it in 
silence under Mrs. Gereth's eye and then in silence 
handed it to her. " I send this to Waterbath, on 
the possibility of your being there, to ask you to 
come to me." Mrs. Gereth held it a moment, read 
it more than once ; then keeping it, and with her 
eyes on her companion, seemed to consider. There 
was the dawn of a kindness in her look ; Fleda 
perceived in it, as if as the reward of complete 
submission, a slight relaxation of her rigour. 

" Wouldn't it perhaps after all be better," she 
asked, "before doing this, to see if we can make 
his whereabouts certain ? " 

"Why so? It will be always so much done," 
said Fleda. " Though I'm poor," she added with a 
smile, " I don't mind the shilling." 

" The shilling's my shilling," said Mrs. Gereth. 

Fleda stayed her hand. " No, no I'm super- 
stitious." 

" Superstitious ? " 

" To succeed, it must be all me ! " 
243 



244 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

"Well, if that will make it succeed!" Mrs. 
Gereth took back her shilling, but she still kept 
the telegram. " As he's most probably not 
there " 

"If he shouldn't be there," Fleda interrupted, 
" there will be no harm done." 

"If he 'shouldn't be' there!" Mrs. Gereth 
ejaculated. " Heaven help us, how you assume it ! " 

"I'm only prepared for the worst. The Brig- 
stocks will simply send any telegram on." 

" Where will they send it ? " 

" Presumably to Poynton." 

" They'll read it first," said Mrs. Gereth. 

"Read it?" 

" Yes, Mona will. She'll open it under the pre- 
text of having it repeated ; and then she'll probably 
do nothing. She'll keep it as a proof of your 
immodesty." 

" What of that ? " asked Fleda. 

" You don't mind her seeing it ? " 

Rather musingly and absently Fleda shook her 
head. " I don't mind anything." 

" Well then, that's all right," said Mrs. Gereth as 
if she had only wanted to feel that she had been 
irreproachably considerate. After this she was 
gentler still, but she had another point to clear 
up. "Why have you given, for a reply, your 
sister's address ? " 

" Because if he does come to me he must come to 
me there. If that telegram goes," said Fleda, " I 
return to Maggie's to-night." 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 245 

Mrs. Gereth seemed to wonder at this. "You 
won't receive him here with me ? " 

" No, I won't receive him here with you. Only 
where I received him last only there again." She 
showed her companion that as to that she was 
firm. 

But Mrs. Gereth had obviously now had some 
practice in following queer movements prompted 
by queer feelings. She resigned herself, though 
she fingered the paper a moment longer. She 
appeared to hesitate ; then she brought out : " You 
couldn't then, if I release you, make your message 
a little stronger ? " 

Fleda gave her a faint smile. " He'll come if he 
can." 

Mrs. Gereth met fully what this conveyed ; with 
decision she pushed in the telegram. But she laid 
her hand quickly upon another form and with still 
greater decision wrote another message. " From 
me, this," she said to Fleda when she had finished : 
" to catch him possibly at Poynton. Will you read 
it?" 

Fleda turned away. " Thank you." 

" It's stronger than yours." 

" I don't care," said Fleda, moving to the door. 
Mrs. Gereth, having paid for the second missive, 
rejoined her, and they drove together to Owen's 
club, where the elder lady alone got out. Fleda, 
from the hansom, watched through the glass doors 
her brief conversation with the hall-porter and then 
met in silence her return with the news that he had 



246 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

not seen Owen for a fortnight and was keeping his 
letters till called for. These had been the last 
orders; there were a dozen letters lying there. 
He had no more information to give, but they 
would see what they could find at Colonel Gereth's. 
To any connection with this inquiry, however, 
Fleda now roused herself to object, and her friend 
had indeed to recognise that on second thoughts it 
couldn't be quite to the taste of either of them to 
advertise in the remoter reaches of the family that 
they had forfeited the confidence of the master of 
Poynton. The letters lying at the club proved 
effectively that he was not in London, and this was 
the question that immediately concerned them. 
Nothing could concern them further till the answers 
to their telegrams should have had time to arrive. 
Mrs. Gereth had got back into the cab, and, still at 
the door of the club, they sat staring at their need 
of patience. Fleda's eyes rested, in the great hard 
street, on passing figures that struck her as puppets 
pulled by strings. After a little the driver chal- 
lenged them through the hole in the top. " Any- 
where in particular, ladies ? " 

Fleda decided. " Drive to Euston, please." 

" You won't wait for what we may hear ? " Mrs. 
Gereth asked. 

"Whatever we hear, I must go." As the cab 
went on she added : " But I needn't drag you to the 
station." 

Mrs. Gereth was silent a moment ; then " Non- 
sense ! " she sharply replied. 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 247 

In spite of this sharpness they were now almost 
equally and almost tremulously mild ; though their 
mildness took mainly the form of an inevitable 
sense of nothing left to say. It was the unsaid 
that occupied them the thing that for more than 
an hour they had been going round and round 
without naming it. Much too early for Fleda's 
train, they encountered at the station a long half- 
hour to wait. Fleda made no further allusion to 
Mrs. Gereth's leaving her ; their dumbness, with 
the elapsing minutes, grew to be in itself a recon- 
stituted bond. They slowly paced the great grey 
platform, and presently Mrs. Gereth took the girl's 
arm and leaned on it with a hard demand for 
support. It seemed to Fleda not difficult for each 
to know of what the other was thinking to know 
indeed that they had in common two alternating 
visions, one of which at moments brought them as 
by a common impulse to a pause. This was the 
one that was fixed ; the other filled at times the 
whole space and then was shouldered away. Owen 
and Mona glared together out of the gloom and 
disappeared, but the replenishment of Poynton 
made a shining, steady light. The old splendour 
was there again, the old things were in their places. 
Our friends looked at them with an equal yearning ; 
face to face, on the platform, they counted them in 
each other's eyes. Fleda had come back to them 
by a road as strange as the road they themselves 
had followed. The wonder of their great journeys, 
the prodigy of this second one, was the question 



248 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

that made her occasionally stop. Several times 
she uttered it, asked how this and that difficulty 
had been met. Mrs. Gereth replied with pale 
lucidity was naturally the person most familiar 
with the truth that what she undertook was always 
somehow achieved. To do it was to do it she 
had more than one kind of magnificence. She 
confessed there, audaciously enough, to a sort of 
arrogance of energy, and Fleda, going on again, 
her inquiry more than answered and her arm 
rendering service, flushed in her diminished identity 
with the sense that such a woman was great. 

"You do mean literally everything, to the last 
little miniature on the last little screen ? " 

" I mean literally everything. Go over them with 
the catalogue ! " 

Fleda went over them while they walked again ; 
she had no need of the catalogue. At last she 
spoke once more. " Even the Maltese cross ? " 

" Even the Maltese cross. Why not that as well 
as everything else? especially as I remembered 
how you like it." 

Finally, after an interval, the girl exclaimed : 
" But the mere fatigue of it, the exhaustion of such 
a feat ! I drag you to and fro here while you must 
be ready to drop." 

" I'm very, very tired." Mrs. Gereth's slow head- 
shake was tragic. " I couldn't do it again." 

" I doubt if they'd bear it again ! " 

" That's another matter : they'd bear it if I could. 
T.here \yon't ha.ve been, this time either, a shake or 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 249 

a scratch. But I'm too tired I very nearly don't 
care." 

" You must sit down then till I go," said Fleda. 
" We must find a bench." 

" No. I'm tired of them : I'm not tired of you. 
This is the way for you to feel most how much I 
rest on you." Fleda had a compunction, wondering 
as they continued to stroll whether it was right 
after all to leave her. She believed however that 
if the flame might for the moment burn low it was 
far from dying out ; an impression presently con- 
firmed by the way Mrs. Gereth went on : " But 
one's fatigue is nothing. The idea under which 
one worked kept one up. For you I could I can 
still. Nothing will have mattered if she's not there." 

There was a question that this imposed, but 
Fleda at first found no voice to utter it : it was the 
thing that between them, since her arrival, had been 
so consciously and vividly unsaid. Finally she was 
able to breathe : " And if she is there if she's 
there already?" 

Mrs. Gereth's rejoinder too hung back ; then 
when it came from sad eyes as well as from lips 
barely moved it was unexpectedly merciful. "It 
will be very hard." That was all now ; and it was 
poignantly simple. The train Fleda was to take 
had drawn up ; the girl kissed her as if in farewell. 
Mrs. Gereth submitted, then after a little brought 
out : " If we have lost " 

" If we have lost ? " Fleda repeated as she paused 
again. 



250 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

" You'll all the same come abroad with me ? " 

"It will seem very strange to me if you want me. 
But whatever you ask, whatever you need, that I 
will always do." 

" I shall need your company," said Mrs. Gereth. 
Fleda wondered an instant if this were not practi- 
cally a demand for penal submission for a sur- 
render that, in its complete humility, would be a 
long expiation. But there was none of the latent 
chill of the vindictive in the way Mrs. Gereth 
pursued : " We can always, as time goes on, talk of 
them together." 

"Of the old things?" Fleda had selected a 
third-class compartment : she stood a moment 
looking into it and at a fat woman with a basket 
who had already taken possession. " Always ? " she 
said, turning again to her companion. " Never ! " 
she exclaimed. She got into the carriage, and two 
men with bags and boxes immediately followed, 
blocking up door and window so long that when 
she was able to look out again Mrs. Gereth had 
gone. 



XX 

THERE came to her at her sister's no telegram 
in answer to her own : the rest of that day and 
the whole of the next elapsed without a word 
either from Owen or from his mother. She was 
free, however, to her infinite relief, from any direct 
dealing with suspense, and conscious, to her sur- 
prise, of nothing that could show her, or could 
show Maggie and her brother-in-law, that she was 
excited. Her excitement was composed of pulses 
as swift and fine as the revolutions of a spinning 
top : she supposed she was going round, but she 
went round so fast that she couldn't even feel her- 
self move. Her emotion occupied some quarter 
of her soul that had closed its doors for the day 
and shut out even her own sense of it ; she might 
perhaps have heard something if she had pressed 
her ear to a partition. Instead of that she sat 
with her patience in a cold, still chamber from 
which she could look out in quite another direction. 
This was to have achieved an equilibrium to which 
she couldn't have given a name : indifference, 

resignation, despair were the terms of a forgotten 

251 



252 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

tongue. The time even seemed not long, for the 
stages of the journey were the items of Mrs. 
Gereth's surrender. The detail of that perform- 
ance, which filled the scene, was what Fleda had 
now before her eyes. The part of her loss that 
she could think of was the reconstituted splendour 
of Poynton. It was the beauty she was most 
touched by that, in tons, she had lost the beauty 
that, charged upon big wagons, had safely crept 
back to its home. But the loss was a gain to 
memory and love ; it was to her too at last that, 
in condonation of her treachery, the old things had 
crept back. She greeted them with open arms ; 
she thought of them hour after hour ; they made 
a company with which solitude was warm and a 
picture that, at this crisis, overlaid poor Maggie's 
scant mahogany. It was really her obliterated 
passion that had revived, and with it an immense 
assent to Mrs. Gereth's early judgment of her. 
She equally, she felt, was of the religion, and like 
any other of the passionately pious she could 
worship now even in the desert. Yes, it was all 
for her ; far round as she had gone she had been 
strong enough : her love had gathered in the spoils. 
She wanted indeed no catalogue to count them 
over ; the array of them, miles away, was complete ; 
each piece, in its turn, was perfect to her ; she could 
have drawn up a catalogue from memory. Thus 
again she lived with them, and she thought of 
them without a question of any personal right. 
That they might have been, that they might still 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 253 

be hers, that they were perhaps already another's, 
were ideas that had too little to say to her. They 
were nobody's at all too proud, unlike base 
animals and humans, to be reducible to anything 
so narrow. It was Poynton that was theirs ; they 
had simply recovered their own. The joy of that 
for them was the source of the strange peace in 
which the girl found herself floating. 

It was broken on the third day by a telegram 
from Mrs. Gereth. "Shall be with you at 11.30 
don't meet me at station." Fleda turned this 
over ; she was sufficiently expert not to disobey 
the injunction. She had only an hour to take in 
its meaning, but that hour was longer than all 
the previous time. If Maggie had studied her 
convenience the day Owen came, Maggie was 
also at the present juncture a miracle of refine- 
ment. Increasingly and resentfully mystified, in 
spite of all reassurance, by the impression that 
Fleda suffered more than she gained 1 from the 
grandeur of the Gereths, she had it at heart to 
exemplify the perhaps truer distinction of nature 
that characterised the house of Vetch. She was 
not, like poor Fleda, at every one's beck, and the 
visitor was to see no more of her than what the 
arrangement of luncheon might tantalisingly show. 
Maggie described herself to her sister as intending 
for a just provocation even the understanding she 
had had with her husband that he also should 
remain invisible. Fleda accordingly awaited alone 
the subject of so many manoeuvres a period that 



254 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

was slightly prolonged even after the drawing-room 
door, at 11.30, was thrown open. Mrs. Gereth 
stood there with a face that spoke plain, but no 
sound fell from her till the withdrawal of the maid, 
whose attention had immediately attached itself 
to the rearrangement of a window-blind and who 
seemed, while she bustled at it, to contribute to 
the pregnant silence ; before the duration of which, 
however, she retreated with a sudden stare. 

" He has done it," said Mrs. Gereth, turning her 
eyes avoidingly but not unperceivingly about her 
and in spite of herself dropping an opinion upon 
the few objects in the room. Fleda, on her side, 
in her silence, observed how characteristically she 
looked at Maggie's possessions before looking at 
Maggie's sister. The girl understood and at first 
had nothing to say ; she was still dumb while Mrs. 
Gereth selected, with hesitation, a seat less dis- 
tasteful than the one that happened to be nearest. 
On the sofa near the window the poor woman 
finally showed what the two past days had done 
for the age of her face. Her eyes at last met 
Fleda's. " It's the end." 

"They're married?" 

"They're married." 

Fleda came to the sofa in obedience to the im- 
pulse to sit down by her ; then paused before her 
while Mrs. Gereth turned up a dead grey mask. 
A tired old woman sat there with empty hands in 
her lap. " I've heard nothing," said Fleda. " No 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 255 

"That's the only answer. It's the answer to 
everything." So Fleda saw; for a minute she 
looked over her companion's head and far away. 
" He wasn't at Waterbath. Mrs. Brigstock must 
have read your telegram and kept it. But mine, 
the one to Poynton, brought something. * We are 
here what do you want ? ' " Mrs. Gereth stopped 
as if with a failure of voice ; on which Fleda sank 
upon the sofa and made a movement to take her 
hand. It met no response; there could be no 
attenuation. Fleda waited; they sat facing each 
other like strangers. " I wanted to go down," 
Mrs. Gereth presently continued. " Well, I went." 

All the girl's effort tended for the time to a 
single aim that of taking the thing with outward 
detachment, speaking of it as having happened to 
Owen and to his mother and not in any degree to 
herself. Something at least of this was in the 
encouraging way she said : " Yesterday morning ? " 

" Yesterday morning. I saw him." 

Fleda hesitated. " Did you see her ?" 

"Thank God, no!" 

Fleda laid on her arm a hand of vague comfort, 
of which Mrs. Gereth took no notice. " You've 
been capable, just to tell me, of this wretched 
journey, of this consideration that I don't de- 
serve?" 

"We're together, we're together," said Mrs. 
Gereth. She looked helpless as she sat there, her 
eyes, unseeingly enough, on a tall Dutch clock, 
old but rather poor, that Maggie had had as a 



256 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

wedding-gift and that eked out the bareness of 
the room. 

To Fleda, in the face of the event, it appeared 
that this was exactly what they were not: the 
last inch of common ground, the ground of their 
past intercourse, had fallen from under them. 
Yet what was still there was the grand style of 
her companion's treatment of her. Mrs. Gereth 
couldn't stand upon small questions, couldn't in 
conduct make small differences. "You're mag- 
nificent ! " her young friend exclaimed. " There's 
an extraordinary greatness in your generosity." 

" We're together, we're together," Mrs. Gereth 
lifelessly repeated. " That's all we are now ; it's 
all we have." The words brought to Fleda a 
sudden vision of the empty little house at Ricks; 
such a vision might also have been what her 
companion found in the face of the stopped Dutch 
clock. Yet with this it was clear that she would 
now show no bitterness: she had done with that, 
had given the last drop to those horrible hours 
in London. No passion even was left to her, and 
her forbearance only added to the force with which 
she represented the final vanity of everything. 

Fleda was so far from a wish to triumph that 
she was absolutely ashamed of having anything 
to say for herself; but there was one thing, all 
the same, that not to say was impossible. " That 
he has done it, that he couldn't not do it, shows 
how right I was." It settled forever her attitude, 
and she spoke as if for her own mind ; then after 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 257 

a little she added very gently, for Mrs. Gereth's: 
"That's to say, it shows that he was bound to 
her by an obligation that, however much he may 
have wanted to, he couldn't in any sort of honour 
break." 

Blanched and bleak, Mrs. Gereth looked at her. 
" What sort of an obligation do you call that ? 
No such obligation exists for an hour between 
any man and any woman who have hatred on 
one side. He had ended by hating her, and now 
he hates her more than ever." 

"Did he tell you so?" Fleda asked. 

" No. He told me nothing but the great gawk 
of a fact. I saw him but for three minutes." 
She was silent again, and Fleda, as before some 
lurid image of this interview, sat without speak- 
ing. " Do you wish to appear as if you don't 
care?" Mrs. Gereth presently demanded. 

" I'm trying not to think of myself." 

" Then if you're thinking of Owen, how can 
you bear to think ? " 

Sadly and submissively Fleda shook her head ; 
the slow tears had come into her eyes. " I can't. 
I don't understand I don't understand ! " she 
broke out. 

" / do, then." Mrs. Gereth looked hard at the 
floor. " There was no obligation at the time you 
saw him last when you sent him, hating her as 
he did, back to her." 

" If he went," Fleda asked, "doesn't that exactly 
prove that he recognised one ? " 



258 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

" He recognised rot ! You know what / think 
of him." Fleda knew; she had no wish to pro- 
voke a fresh statement. Mrs. Gereth made one 
it was her sole, faint flicker of passion to the 
extent of declaring that he was too abjectly weak 
to deserve the name of a man. For all Fleda 
cared ! it was his weakness she loved in him. 
" He took strange ways of pleasing you ! " her 
friend went on. "There was no obligation till 
suddenly, the other day, the situation changed." 

Fleda wondered. " The other day ? " 

" It came to Mona's knowledge I can't tell you 
how, but it came that the things I was sending 
back had begun to arrive at Poynton. I had 
sent them for you, but it was her I touched." 
Mrs. Gereth paused; Fleda was too absorbed in 
her explanation to do anything but take blankly 
the full, cold breath of this. " They were there, 
and that determined her." 

" Determined her to what ? " 

" To act, to take means." 

" To take means ? " Fleda repeated. 

" I can't tell you what they were, but they were 
powerful. She knew how," said Mrs. Gereth. 

Fleda received with the same stoicism the 
quiet immensity of this allusion to the person 
who had not known how. But it made her think 
a little, and the thought found utterance, with 
unconscious irony, in the simple interrogation : 
"Mona?" 

Why not ? She's a brute." 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 259 

" But if he knew that so well, what chance was 
there in it for her ? " 

" How can I tell you ? How can I talk of such 
horrors ? I can only give you, of the situation, what 
I see. He knew it, yes. But as she couldn't 
make him forget it, she tried to make him like it. 
She tried and she succeeded : that's what she did. 
She's after all so much less of a fool than he. And 
what else had he originally liked?" Mrs. Gereth 
shrugged her shoulders. "She did what you 
wouldn't ! " Fleda's face had grown dark with her 
wonder, but her friend's empty hands offered no 
balm to the pain in it. " It was that if it was any- 
thing. Nothing else meets the misery of it. Then 
there was quick work. Before he could turn round 
he was married." 

Fleda, as if she had been holding her breath, gave 
the sigh of a listening child. " At that place you 
spoke of in town ? " 

" At a Registry-office like a pair of low athe- 
ists." 

The girl hesitated. " What do people say of that ? 
I mean the ' world.' " 

" Nothing, because nobody knows. They're to be 
married on the i/th at Waterbath church. If any- 
thing else comes out, everybody is a little prepared. 
It will pass for some stroke of diplomacy, some move 
in the game, some outwitting of me. It's known 
there has been a row with me." 

Fleda was mystified. "People surely know at 
Poynton," she objected, " if, as you say, she's there." 



26o THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

" She was there, day before yesterday, only for a 
few hours. She met him in London and went down 
to see the things." 

Fleda remembered that she had seen them only 
once. " Did you see them ? " she then ventured to 
ask. 

"Everything." 

" Are they right ? " 

" Quite right. There's nothing like them," said 
Mrs. Gereth. At this her companion took up one 
of her hands again and kissed it as she had done in 
London. " Mona went back that night ; she was 
not there yesterday. Owen stayed on," she added. 

Fleda stared. " Then she's not to live there ? " 

"Rather! But not till after the public marriage." 
Mrs. Gereth seemed to muse ; then she brought out : 
"She'll live there alone." 

"Alone?" 

" She'll have it to herself." 

" He won't live with her? " 

" Never ! But she's none the less his wife, and 
you're not," said Mrs. Gereth, getting up. "Our 
only chance is the chance she may die." 

Fleda appeared to consider : she appreciated her 
visitor's magnanimous use of the plural. " Mona 
won't die," she replied. 

" Well, / shall, thank God ! Till then "and with 
this, for the first time, Mrs. Gereth put out her hand 
" don't desert me." 

Fleda took her hand, and her clasp of it was a 
reiteration of a promise already given. She said 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 261 

nothing, but her silence was an acceptance as 
responsible as the vow of a nun. The next moment 
something occurred to her. " I mustn't put myself 
in your son's way." 

Mrs. Gereth gave a dry, flat laugh. "You're 
prodigious ! But how shall you possibly be more 
out of it ? Owen and I " She didn't finish her 
sentence. 

" That's your great feeling about him," Fleda said ; 
" but how, after what has happened, can it be his 
about you ? " 

Mrs. Gereth hesitated. " How do you know what 
has happened? You don't know what I said to 
him." 

" Yesterday ? " 

" Yesterday." 

They looked at each other with a long, deep 
gaze. Then, as Mrs. Gereth seemed again about 
to speak, the girl, closing her eyes, made a gesture 
of strong prohibition. " Don't tell me ! " 

" Merciful powers, how you worship him ! " Mrs. 
Gereth wonderingly moaned. It was for Fleda the 
shake that made the cup overflow. She had a pause, 
that of the child who takes time to know that he 
responds to an accident with pain ; then, dropping 
again on the sofa, she broke into tears. They were 
beyond control, they came in long sobs, which for a 
moment Mrs. Gereth, alrrtost with an air of indiffer- 
ence, stood hearing and watching. At last Mrs. 
Gereth too sank down again. Mrs. Gereth sound- 
lessly, wearily wept. 



XXI 

" IT looks just like Waterbath ; but, after all, we 
bore that together : " these words formed part of a 
letter in which, before the i^th, Mrs. Gereth, writing 
from disfigured Ricks, named to Fleda the day on 
which she would be expected to arrive there on a 
second visit. " I shan't, for a long time to come," 
the missive continued, " be able to receive any one 
who may like it, who would try to smooth it down, 
and me with it ; but there are always things you 
and I can comfortably hate together, for you're the 
only person who comfortably understands. You 
don't understand quite everything, but of all my 
acquaintance you're far away the least stupid. For 
action you're no good at all ; but action is over, for 
me, forever, and you will have the great merit of 
knowing, when I'm brutally silent, what I shall be 
thinking about. Without setting myself up for 
your equal I dare say I shall also know what are 
your own thoughts. Moreover, with nothing else 
but my four walls, you'll at any rate be a bit of 
furniture. For that, you know, a little, I've always 
taken you quite one of my best finds. So come, 

if possible, on the 15th." 

262 



THE SPOILS OF POYNtON 263 

The position of a bit of furniture was one that 
Fleda could conscientiously accept, and she by no 
means insisted on so high a place in the list. This 
communication made her easier, if only by its 
acknowledgment that her friend had something 
left: it still implied recognition of the principle 
of property. Something to hate, and to hate 
"comfortably," was at least not the utter desti- 
tution to which, after their last interview, she had 
helplessly seemed to see Mrs. Gereth go forth. 
She remembered indeed that, in the state in which 
they first saw it, she herself had " liked " the 
blessed refuge of Ricks ; and she now . wondered 
if the tact for which she was commended had then 
operated to make her keep her kindness out of 
sight. She was at present ashamed of such 
obliquity and made up her mind that if this happy 
impression, quenched in the spoils of Poynton, 
should revive on the spot, she would utter it to her 
companion without reserve. Yes, she was capable 
of as much " action " as that : all the more that the 
spirit of her hostess seemed, for the time at least, 
wholly to have failed. Mrs. Gereth's three minutes 
with Owen had been a blow to all talk of travel, 
and after her woeful hour at Maggie's she had, like 
some great moaning, wounded bird, made her way 
with wings of anguish back to the nest she knew 
she should find empty. Fleda, on that dire day, 
could neither keep her nor give her up ; she had 
pressingly offered to return with her, but Mrs. 
Gereth, in spite of the theory that their common 



264 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

grief was a bond, had even declined all escort to 
the station, conscious apparently of something 
abject in her collapse and almost fiercely eager, as 
with a personal shame, to be unwatched. All she 
had said to Fleda was that she would go back to 
Ricks that night, and the girl had lived for days 
after with a dreadful image of her position and her 
misery there. She had had a vision of her now 
lying prone on some unmade bed, now pacing a 
bare floor like a lioness deprived of her cubs. 
There had been moments when her mind's ear 
was strained to listen for some sound of grief wild 
enough to be wafted from afar. But the first 
sound, at the end of a week, had been a note 
announcing, without reflections, that the plan of 
going abroad had been abandoned. " It has come 
to me indirectly, but with much appearance of 
truth, that they are going for an indefinite time. 
That quite settles it ; I shall stay where I am, and 
as soon as I've turned round again I shall look for 
you." The second letter had come a week later, 
and on the I5th Fleda was on her way to Ricks. 

Her arrival took the form of a surprise very 
nearly as violent as that of the other time. The 
elements were different, but the effect, like the 
other, arrested her on the threshold : she stood 
there stupefied and delighted at the magic of a 
passion of which such a picture represented the 
low-water mark. Wound up but sincere, and 
passing quickly from room to room, Fleda broke 
out before she even sat down. "If you turn me 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 265 

out of the house for it, my dear, there isn't a 
woman in England for whom it wouldn't be a 
privilege to live here." Mrs. Gereth was as honestly 
bewildered as she had of old been falsely calm. 
She looked about at the few sticks that, as she 
afterwards phrased it, she had gathered in, and 
then hard at her guest, as if to protect herself 
against a joke sufficiently cruel. The girl's heart 
gave a leap, for this stare was the sign of an 
opportunity. Mrs. Gereth was all unwitting ; she 
didn't in the least know what she had done, and 
as Fleda could tell her, Fleda suddenly became the 
one who knew most. That counted for the moment 
as a magnificent position ; it almost made all the 
difference. Yet what contradicted it was the 
vivid presence of the artist's idea. " Where on 
earth did you put your hand on such beautiful 
things ? " 

" Beautiful things ? " Mrs. Gereth turned again 
to the little worn, bleached stuffs and the sweet 
spindle-legs. "They're the wretched things that 
were here that stupid, starved old woman's." 

"The maiden-aunt's, the nicest, the dearest old 
woman that ever lived? I thought you had got 
rid of the maiden-aunt." 

"She was stored in an empty barn stuck 
away for a sale ; a matter that, fortunately, 
I've had neither time nor freedom of mind to 
arrange. I've simply, in my extremity, fished her 
out again." 

" You've simply, in your extremity, made a delight 



266 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

of her." Fleda took the highest line and the upper 
hand, and as Mrs. Gereth, challenging her cheer- 
fulness, turned again a lustreless eye over the 
contents of the place, she broke into a rapture that 
was unforced, but that she was conscious of an 
advantage in being able to feel. She moved, as 
she had done on the. previous occasion, from one 
piece to another, with looks of recognition and 
hands that lightly lingered, but she was as feverishly 
jubilant now as she had formerly been anxious and 
mute. " Ah, the little melancholy, tender, tell-tale 
things : how can they not speak to you and find a 
way to your heart? It's not the great chorus of 
Poynton ; but you're not, I'm sure, either so proud 
or so broken as to be reached by nothing but that. 
This is a voice so gentle, so human, so feminine a 
faint, far-away voice with the little quaver of a 
heart-break. You've listened to it unawares ; for 
the arrangement and effect of everything when I 
compare them with what we found the first day we 
came down shows, even if mechanically and dis- 
dainfully exercised, your admirable, infallible hand. 
It's your extraordinary genius ; you make things 
* compose ' in spite of yourself. You've only to 
be a day or two in a place with four sticks for 
something to come of it ! " 

" Then if anything has come of it here, it has 
come precisely of just four. That's literally, by the 
inventory, all there are ! " said Mrs. Gereth. 

" If there were more there would be too many to 
convey the impression in which half the beauty 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 267 

resides the impression, somehow, of something 
dreamed and missed, something reduced, relin- 
quished, resigned : the poetry, as it were, of some- 
thing sensibly gone" Fleda ingeniously and 
triumphantly worked it out. "Ah, there's some- 
thing here that will never be in the inventory ! " 

" Does it happen to be in your power to give it 
a name?" Mrs. Gereth's face showed the dim 
dawn of an amusement at finding herself seated at 
the feet of her pupil. 

" I can give it a dozen. It's a kind of fourth 
dimension. It's a presence, a perfume, a touch. 
It's a soul, a story, a life. There's ever so much 
more here than you and I. We're in fact just 
three ! " 

" Oh, if you count the ghosts ! " 

" Of course I count the ghosts. It seems to me 
ghosts count double for what they were and for 
what they are. Somehow there were no ghosts 
at Poynton," Fleda went on. " That was the only 
fault." 

Mrs. Gereth, considering, appeared to fall in 
with the girl's fine humour. " Poynton was too 
splendidly happy." 

" Poynton was too splendidly happy," Fleda 
promptly echoed. 

" But it's cured of that now," her companion 
added. 

" Yes, henceforth there'll be a ghost or two." 

Mrs. Gereth thought again : she found her young 
friend suggestive. " Only she won't see them." 



268 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

" No, ' she ' won't see them." Then Fleda said : 
" What I mean is, for this dear one of ours, that if 
she had (as I know she did ; it's in the very taste 
of the air !) a great accepted pain " 

She had paused an instant, and Mrs. Gereth took 
her up. "Well, if she had?" 

Fleda still hesitated. " Why, it was worse than 
yours." 

Mrs. Gereth reflected. "Very likely." Then 
she too hesitated. " The question is if it was worse 
than yours." 

" Mine ? " Fleda looked vague. 

" Precisely. Yours." 

At this our young lady smiled. " Yes, because 
it was a disappointment. She had been so sure." 

" I see. And you were never sure." 

" Never. Besides, I'm happy," said Fleda. 

Mrs. Gereth met her eyes awhile. " Goose ! " 
she quietly remarked as she turned away. There 
was a curtness in it ; nevertheless it represented 
a considerable part of the basis of their new 
life. 

On the 1 8th The Morning Post had at last its 
clear message, a brief account of the marriage, from 
the residence of the bride's mother, of Mr. Owen 
Gereth of Poynton Park to Miss Mona Brigstock 
of Waterbath. There were two ecclesiastics and 
six bridesmaids and, as Mrs. Gereth subsequently 
said, a hundred frumps, as well as a special train 
from town : the scale of the affair sufficiently 
showed that the preparations had been complete 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 269 

for weeks. The happy pair were described as 
having taken their departure for Mr. Gereth's own 
seat, famous for its unique collection of artistic 
curiosities. The newspapers and letters, the fruits 
of the first London post, had been brought to the 
mistress of Ricks in the garden ; and she lingered 
there alone a long time after receiving them. Fleda 
kept at a distance; she knew what must have 
happened, for from one of the windows she saw 
her rigid in a chair, her eyes strange and fixed, the 
newspaper open on the ground and the letters 
untouched in her lap. Before the morning's end 
she had disappeared, and the rest of that day she 
remained in her room : it recalled to Fleda, who 
had picked up the newspaper, the day, months 
before, on which Owen had come down to Poynton 
to make his engagement known. The hush of the 
house at least was the same, and the girl's own 
waiting, her soft wandering, through the hours : 
there was a difference indeed sufficiently great, of 
which her companion's absence might in some 
degree have represented a considerate recognition. 
That was at any rate the meaning Fleda, devoutly 
glad to be alone, attached to her opportunity. 
Mrs. Gereth's sole allusion the next day to the 
subject of their thoughts has already been men- 
tioned : it was a dazzled glance at the fact that 
Mona's quiet pace had really never slackened. 

Fleda fully assented. " I said of our disembodied 
friend here that she had suffered in proportion as 
she had been sure. But that's not always a source 



2;o THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

of suffering. It's Mona who must have been 
sure ! " 

" She was sure of you / " Mrs. Gereth returned. 
But this didn't diminish the satisfaction taken by 
Fleda in showing how serenely and lucidly she 
could talk. 



XXII 

HER relation with her wonderful friend had, 
however, in becoming a new one begun to shape 
itself almost wholly on breaches and omissions. 
Something had dropped out altogether, and the 
question between them, which time would answer, 
was whether the change had made them strangers 
or yokefellows. It was as if at last, for better or 
worse, they were, in a clearer, cruder air, really to 
know each other. Fleda wondered how Mrs. 
Gereth had escaped hating her : there were hours 
when it seemed that such a feat might leave after 
all a scant margin for future accidents. The thing 
indeed that now came out in its simplicity was 
that even in her shrunken state the lady of Ricks 
was larger than her wrongs. As for the girl her- 
self, she had made up her mind that her feelings 
had no connection with the case. It was her 
pretension that they had never yet emerged from 
the seclusion into which, after her friend's visit to 
her at her sister's, we saw them precipitately retire : 
if she should suddenly meet them in straggling 

procession on the road it would be time enough to 
271 



272 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

deal with them. They were all bundled there 
together, likes with dislikes and memories with 
fears ; and she had for not thinking of them the 
excellent reason that she was too occupied with 
the actual. The actual was not that Owen Gereth 
had seen his necessity where she had pointed it 
out ; it was that his mother's bare spaces demanded 
all the tapestry that the recipient of her bounty 
could furnish. There were moments during the 
month that followed when Mrs. Gereth struck her 
as still older and feebler and as likely to become 
quite easily amused. 

At the end of it, one day, the London paper had 
another piece of news : " Mr. and Mrs. Owen 
Gereth, who arrived in town last week, proceed 
this morning to Paris." They exchanged no word 
about it till the evening, and none indeed would 
then have been uttered had not Mrs. Gereth 
irrelevantly broken out : " I dare say you wonder 
why I declared the other day with such assurance 
that he wouldn't live with her. He apparently is 
living with her." 

"Surely it's the only proper thing for him to 
do." 

" They're beyond me I give it up," said Mrs. 
Gereth. 

" I don't give it up I never did," Fleda 
returned. 

" Then what do you make of his aversion to 
her?" 

" Oh, she has dispelled it." 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 273 

Mrs. Gereth said nothing for a minute. " You're 
prodigious in your choice of terms ! " she then 
simply ejaculated. 

But Fleda went luminously on ; she once more 
enjoyed her great command of her subject. " I 
think that when you came to see me at Maggie's you 
saw too many things, you had too many ideas." 

" You had none," said Mrs. Gereth. " You were 
completely bewildered." 

"Yes, I didn't quite understand but I think I 
understand now. The case is simple and logical 
enough. She's a person who's upset by failure 
and who blooms and expands with success. There 
was something she had set her heart upon, set 
her teeth about the house exactly as she had 
seen it." 

" She never saw it at all, she never looked at it ! " 
cried Mrs. Gereth. 

" She doesn't look with her eyes ; she looks with 
her ears. In her own way she had taken it in ; 
she knew, she felt when it had been touched. That 
probably made her take an attitude that was 
extremely disagreeable. But the attitude lasted 
only while the reason for it lasted." 

" Go on I can bear it now," said Mrs. Gereth. 
Her companion had just perceptibly paused. 

" I know you can, or I shouldn't dream of speak- 
ing. When the pressure was removed she came up 
again. From the moment the house was once 
more what it had to be, her natural charm reasserted 
itself." 



274 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

" Her natural charm ! " Mrs. Gereth could barely 
articulate. 

" It's very great ; everybody thinks so ; there 
must be something in it. It operated as it had 
operated before. There's no need of imagining 
anything very monstrous. Her restored good 
humour, her splendid beauty and Mr. Owen's 
impressibility and generosity sufficiently cover the 
ground. His great bright sun came out ! " 

" And his great bright passion for another person 
went in. Your explanation would doubtless be 
perfection if he didn't love you." 

Fleda was silent a little. " What do you know 
about his * loving ' me ? " 

" I know what Mrs. Brigstock herself told me." 

" You never in your life took her word for any 
other matter." 

" Then won't yours do ? " Mrs. Gereth demanded. 
" Haven't I had it from your own mouth that he 
cares for you ? " 

Fleda turned pale, but she faced her companion 
and smiled. "You confound, Mrs. Gereth. You 
mix things up. You've only had it from my own 
mouth that I care for him / " 

It was doubtless in contradictious allusion to this 
(which at the time had made her simply drop her 
head as in a strange, vain reverie) that Mrs. Gereth, 
a day or two later, said to Fleda : " Don't think I 
shall be a bit affected if I'm here to see it when he 
comes again to make up to you." 

" He won't do that," the girl replied. Then she 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 275 

added, smiling : " But if he should be guilty of 
such bad taste it wouldn't be nice of you not to be 
disgusted." 

" I'm not talking of disgust ; I'm talking of its 
opposite," said Mrs. Gereth. 

" Of its opposite ? " 

" Why, of any reviving pleasure that one might 
feel in such an exhibition. I shall feel none at all. 
You may personally take it as you like ; but what 
conceivable good will it do ? " 

Fleda wondered. " To me, do you mean ?/' 

" Deuce take you, no ! To what we don't, you 
know, by your wish, ever talk about." 

" The old things ? " Fleda considered again. " It 
will do no good of any sort to anything or any one. 
That's another question I would rather we shouldn't 
discuss, please," she gently added. 

Mrs. Gereth shrugged her shoulders. "It cer- 
tainly isn't worth it ! " 

Something in her manner prompted her com- 
panion, with a certain inconsequence, to speak 
again. " That was partly why I came back to you, 
you know that there should be the less possibility 
of anything painful." 

"Painful?" Mrs. Gereth stared. "What pain 
can I ever feel again ? " 

" I meant painful to myself," Fleda, with a slight 
impatience, explained. 

"Oh, I see." Her friend was silent a minute. 
" You use sometimes such odd expressions. Well, 
I shall last a little, but I sha'n't last forever," 



276 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

"You'll last quite as long " Here Fleda 

suddenly hesitated. 

Mrs. Gereth took her up with a cold smile that 
seemed the warning of experience against hyperbole. 
" As long as what, please ? " 

The girl thought an instant ; then met the 
difficulty by adopting, as an amendment, the same 
tone. " As any danger of the ridiculous." 

That did for the time, and she had moreover, as 
the months went on, the protection of suspended 
allusions. This protection was marked when, in 
the following November, she received a letter 
directed in a hand at which a quick glance sufficed 
to make her hesitate to open it. She said nothing, 
then or afterwards ; but she opened it, for reasons 
that had come to her, on the morrow. It consisted 
of a page and a half from Owen Gereth, dated 
from Florence, but with no other preliminary. 
She knew that during the summer he had returned 
to England with his wife, and that after a couple 
of months they had again gone abroad. She also 
knew, without communication, that Mrs. Gereth, 
round whom Ricks had grown submissively and 
indescribably sweet, had her own interpretation of 
her daughter-in-law's share in this second migration. 
It was a piece of calculated insolence a stroke 
odiously directed at showing whom it might 
concern that now she had Poynton fast she was 
perfectly indifferent to living there. The Morning 
Post, at Ricks, had again been a resource : it was 
stated in that journal that Mr. and Mrs. Owen 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 277 

Gereth proposed to spend the winter in India. 
There was a person to whom it was clear that she 
led her wretched husband by the nose. Such was 
the light in which contemporary history was offered 
to Fleda until, in her own room, late at night, she 
broke the seal of her letter. 

" I want you, inexpressibly, to have, as a re- 
membrance, something of mine something of real 
value. Something from Poynton is what I mean 
and what I should prefer. You know everything 
there, and far better than I what's best and what 
isn't. There are a lot of differences, but aren't 
some of the smaller things the most remarkable ? 
I mean for judges, and for what they'd bring. 
What I want you to take from me, and to choose 
for yourself, is the thing in the whole house that's 
most beautiful and precious. I mean the * gem of 
the collection/ don't you know? If it happens to 
be of such a sort that you can take immediate 
possession of it carry it right away with you 
so much the better. You're to have it on the spot, 
whatever it is. I humbly beg of you to go down 
there and see. The people have complete instruc- 
tions : they'll act for you in every possible way 
and put the whole place at your service. There's 
a thing mamma used to call the Maltese cross and 
that I think I've heard her say is very wonderful. 
Is that the gem of the collection? Perhaps you 
would take it or anything equally convenient. 
Only I do want you awfully to let it be the very 
pick of the place. Let me feel that I can trust 



278 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

you for this. You won't refuse if you will think 
a little what it must be that makes me ask." 

Fleda read that last sentence over more times 
even than the rest : she was baffled she couldn't 
think at all of what it might be. This was indeed 
because it might be one of so many things. She 
made for the present no answer ; she merely, little 
by little, fashioned for herself the form that her 
answer should eventually wear. There was only 
one form that was possible the form of doing, 
at her time, what he wished. She would go down 
to Poynton as a pilgrim might go to a shrine, and 
as to this she must look out for her chance. She 
lived with her letter, before any chance came, a 
month, and even after a month it had mysteries 
for her that she couldn't meet. What did it mean, 
what did it represent, to what did it correspond 
in his imagination or his soul ? What was behind 
it, what was before it, what was, in the deepest 
depth, within it? She said to herself that with 
these questions she was under no obligation to 
deal. There was an explanation of them that, for 
practical purposes, would do as well as another : 
he had found in his marriage a happiness so much 
greater than, in the distress of his dilemma, he had 
been able to take heart to believe, that he now 
felt he owed her a token of gratitude for having 
kept him in the straight path. That explanation, 
I say, she could throw off ; but no explanation in 
the least mattered : what determined her was the 
simple strength of her impulse to respond. The 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 279 

passion for which what had happened had made 
no difference, the passion that had taken this into 
account before as well as after, found here an issue 
that there was nothing whatever to choke. It 
found even a relief to which her imagination 
immensely contributed. Would she act upon his 
offer? She would act with secret rapture. To 
have as her own something splendid that he had 
given her, of which the gift had been his signed 
desire, would be a greater joy than the greatest 
she had supposed to be left to her, and she felt 
that till the sense of this came home she had even 
herself not known what burned in her successful 
stillness. It was an hour to dream of and watch 
for ; to be patient was to draw out the sweetness. 
She was capable of feeling it as an hour of triumph, 
the triumph of everything in her recent life that 
had not held up its head. She moved there in 
thought in the great rooms she knew ; she should 
be able to say to herself that, for once at least, her 
possession was as complete as that of either of the 
others whom it had rilled only with bitterness. 
And a thousand times yes her choice should 
know no scruple : the thing she should go down 
to take would be up to the height of her privilege. 
The whole place was in her eyes, and she spent 
for weeks her private hours in a luxury of com- 
parison and debate. It should be one of the 
smallest things because it should be one she could 
have close to her ; and it should be one of the 
finest because it was in the finest he saw his 



280 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

symbol. She said to herself that of what it would 
symbolise she was content to know nothing more 
than just what her having it would tell her. At 
bottom she inclined to the Maltese cross with 
the added reason that he had named it. But she 
would look again and' judge afresh ; she would on 
the spot so handle and ponder that there shouldn't 
be the shade of a mistake. 

Before Christmas she had a natural opportunity 
to go to London : there was her periodical call 
upon her father to pay as well as a promise to 
Maggie to redeem. She spent her first night in 
West Kensington, with the idea of carrying out on 
the morrow the purpose that had most of a motive. 
Her father's affection was not inquisitive, but when 
she mentioned to him that she had business in the 
country that would oblige her to catch an early 
train he deprecated her excursion in view of the 
menace of the weather. It was spoiling for a 
storm : all the signs of a winter gale were in the 
air. She replied that she would see what the 
morning might bring ; and it brought in fact what 
seemed in London an amendment. She was to go 
to Maggie the next day, and now that she started 
her eagerness had become suddenly a pain. She 
pictured her return that evening with her trophy 
under her cloak ; so that after looking, from the 
doorstep, up and down the dark street, she decided 
with a new nervousness and sallied forth to the 
nearest place of access to the " Underground." The 
Pecember dawn was dolorous, but there was 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 281 

neither rain nor snow ; it was not even cold, and 
the atmosphere of West Kensington, purified by 
the wind, was like a dirty old coat that had been 
bettered by a dirty brush. At the end of almost 
an hour, in the larger station, she had taken her 
place in a third-class compartment ; the prospect 
before her was the run of eighty minutes to 
Poynton. The train was a fast one, and she was 
familiar with the moderate measure of the walk to 
the park from the spot at which it would drop, 
her. 

Once in the country indeed she saw that her 
father was right : the breath of December was 
abroad with a force from which the London laby- 
rinth had protected her. The green fields were 
black, the sky was all alive with the wind; she 
had, in her anxious sense of the elements, her 
wonder at what might happen, a reminder of the 
surmises, in the old days of going to the Continent, 
that used to worry her on the way, at night, to the 
horrid cheap crossings by long sea. Something, 
in a dire degree, at this last hour, had begun to 
press on her heart : it was the sudden imagination 
of a disaster, or at least of a check, before her 
errand was achieved. When she said to herself 
that something might happen she wanted to go 
faster than the train. But nothing could happen 
save a dismayed discovery that, by some altogether 
unlikely chance, the master and mistress of the 
house had already come back. In that case she 



282 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

must have had a warning, and the fear was but the 
excess of her hope. It was every one's being 
exactly where every one was that lent the quality 
to her visit. Beyond lands and seas and alienated 
forever, they in their different ways gave her the 
impression to take as she had never taken it. At 
last it was already there, though the darkness of 
the day had deepened ; they had whizzed past 
Chater Chater which was the station before the 
right one. Off in that quarter was an air of wild 
rain, but there shimmered straight across it a 
brightness that was the colour of the great interior 
she had been haunting. That vision settled before 
her in the house the house was all ; and as the 
train drew up she rose, in her mean compartment, 
quite proudly erect with the thought that all 
for Fleda Vetch then the house was standing 
there. 

But with the opening of the door she encountered 
a shock, though for an instant she couldn't have 
named it : the next moment she saw it was given 
her by the face of the man advancing to let her 
out, an old lame porter of the station who had been 
there in Mrs. Gereth's time and who now recog- 
nised her. He looked up at her so hard that she 
took an alarm and before alighting broke out to 
him : " They've come back ? " She had a confused, 
absurd sense that even he would know that in this 
case she mustn't be there. He hesitated, and in a 
few seconds her alarm had completely changed its 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 283 

ground : it seemed to leap, with her quick jump 
from the carriage, to the ground that was that of 
his stare at her. " Smoke ? " She was on the 
platform with her frightened sniff; it had taken 
her a minute to become aware of an extraordinary 
smell. The air was full of it, and there were 
already heads at the windows of the train, looking 
out at something she couldn't see. Some one, the 
only other passenger, had got out of another car- 
riage, and the old porter hobbled off to close his 
door. The smoke was in her eyes, but she saw 
the station-master, from the end of the platform, 
identify her too and come straight at her. He 
brought her a finer shade of surprise than the 
porter, and while he was coming she heard a voice 
at a window of the train say that something was 
" a good bit off a mile from the town." That was 
just what Poynton was. Then her heart stood 
still at the white wonder in the station-master's 
face. 

" You've come down to it, miss, already ? " 
At this she knew. " Poynton's on fire ? " 
" Gone, miss with this awful gale. You 
weren't wired ? Look out ! " he cried in the 
next breath, seizing her; the train was going on, 
and she had given a lurch that almost made it 
catch her as it passed. When it had drawn 
away she became more conscious of the per- 
vading smoke, which the wind seemed to hurl in 
her face. 



284 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

'''Gone?" She was in the man's hands; she 
clung to him. 

"Burning still, miss. Ain't it quite too dread- 
ful ? Took early this morning the whole place 
is up there." 

In her bewildered horror she tried to think. 
" Have they come back ? " 

" Back ? They'll be there all day ! " 

" Not Mr. Gereth, I mean nor his wife ? " 

" Nor his mother, miss not a soul of them 
back. A pack o' servants in charge not the 
old lady's lot, eh ? A nice job for care-takers ! 
Some rotten chimley or one of them portable 
lamps set down in the wrong place. What has 
done it is this cruel, cruel night." Then as a 
great wave of smoke half-choked them, he drew 
her with force to the little waiting-room. " Awk- 
ward for you, miss I see ! " 

She felt sick; she sank upon a seat, staring 
up at him. " Do you mean that great house is 
lost?" 

"It was near it, I was told, an hour ago the 
fury of the flames had got such a start. I was 
there myself at six, the very first I heard of it. 
They were fighting it then, but you couldn't 
quite say they had got it down." 

Fleda jerked herself up. " Were they saving 
the things?" 

" That's just where it was, miss to get at the 
blessed things. And the want of right help it 



THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 285 

maddened me to stand and see 'em muff it. This 
ain't a place, like, for anything organised. They 
don't come up to a reel emergency." 

She passed out of the door that opened toward 
the village, and met a great acrid gust. She 
heard a far-off windy roar which, in her dismay, 
she took for that of flames a mile away, and 
which, the first instant, acted upon her as a wild 
solicitation. " I must go there." She had scarcely 
spoken before the same omen had changed into 
an appalling check. 

Her vivid friend moreover had got before her; 
he clearly suffered from the nature of the control 
he had to exercise. " Don't do that, miss you 
won't care for it at all." Then as she waveringly 
stood her ground : " It's not a place for a young 
lady, nor, if you'll believe me, a sight for them 
as are in any way affected." 

Fleda by this time knew in what way she was 
affected : she became limp and weak again ; she 
felt herself give everything up. Mixed with the 
horror, with the kindness of the station-master, 
with the smell of cinders and the riot of sound 
was the raw bitterness of a hope that she might 
never again in life have to give up so much 
at such short notice. She heard herself repeat 
mechanically, yet as if asking it for the first time : 
" Poynton's gone ? " 

The man hesitated. "What can you call it, 
miss, if it ain't really saved ? " 



286 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 

A minute later she had returned with him to 
the waiting-room, where, in the thick swim of 
things, she saw something like the disc of a 
clock. "Is there an up-train?" she asked. 

" In seven minutes." 

She came out on the platform: everywhere she 
met the smoke. She covered her face with her 
hands. " I'll go back." 



THE END 



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The Times. ' With the exception of The Scapegoat, this is unquestion- 
ably the finest and most dramatic of Mr. Hall Caine's novels . . . The 
Manxman goes very straight to the roots of human passion and emotion. It 
is a remarkable book, throbbing with human interest.' 

The Guardian. 'A story of exceptional power and thorough originality. 
The greater portion of it is like a Greek tragic drama, in the intensity of its 
interest, and the depth of its overshadowing gloom. . . . But this tragedy is 
merely a telling background for a series of brilliant sketches of men and 
manners, of old-world customs, and forgotten ways of speech which still 
linger in the Isle of Man.' 

The Standard. ' A singularly powerful and picturesque piece of work, 
extraordinarily dramatic. . . . Taken altogether, The Manxman cannot fail 
to enhance Mr. Hall Caine's reputation. It is a most powerful book.' 

The Morning: Post 'If possible, Mr. Hall Caine's work, The Manx- 
man, is more marked by passion, power, and brilliant local colouring than its 
predecessors. ... It has a grandeur as well as strength, and the picturesque 
features and customs of a delightful country are vividly painted. ' 

The World. ' Over and above the absorbing interest of the story, which 
never flags, the book is full of strength, of vivid character sketches, and 
powerful word-painting, all told with a force and knowledge of local colour.' 

The Queen. ' The Manxman is undoubtedly one of the most remarkable 
books of the century. It will be read and re-read, and take its place in the 
literary inheritance of the English-speaking nations.' 

The St James's Gazette. ' The Manxman is a contribution to litera- 
ture, and the most fastidious critic would give in exchange for it a wilderness 
of that deciduous trash which our publishers call fiction. ... It is not possible 
to part from The Manxman with anything but a warm tribute of approval.' 
EDMUND GOSSE. 

The Christian World. * There is a great fascination in being present, 
as it were, at the birth of a classic ; and a classic undoubtedly The Manxman 
is ... He who reads The Manxman feels that he is reading a book which 
will be read and re-read by very many thousands with human tears and 
human laughter.' 

Mr. T. P. O'Connor, in the 'Sun.' 'This is a very fine and great 
story one of the finest and greatest of our time. . . . Mr. Hall Caine reaches 
heights which are attained only by the greatest masters of fiction. ... I think 
of the great French writer, Stendhal, at the same moment as the great 
English writer. ... In short, you feel what Mr. Howells said of Tolstoi, 
" This is not like life ; it is life." ... He belongs to that small minority of 
the Great Elect of Literature.' 

The Scotsman. ' It is not too much to say that it is the most powerful 
story that has been written in the present generation. . . . The love of Pete, 
his simple-mindedness, his sufferings when he has lost Kate, are painted with 
a master-hand. ... It is a work of genius.' 

LONDON : WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C, 

A 



THE BONDMAN 

BY HALL CAINE 

With a Photogravure Portrait of the Author. 
In One Volume^ price 6s. 

Mr. Gladstone. ' The Bondman is a work of which I recognise the 
freshness, vigour, and sustained interest, no less than its integrity of aim. ' 

The Times. ' It is impossible to deny originality and rude power to this 
saga, impossible not to admire its forceful directness, and the colossal 
grandeur of its leading characters. ' 

The Academy. 'The language of The Bondman is full of nervous, 
graphic, and poetical English ; its interest never flags, and its situations and 
descriptions are magnificent. It is a splendid novel.' 

The Speaker. 'This is the best book that Mr. Hall Caine has yet 
written, and it reaches a level to which fiction very rarely attains. . . . We 
are, in fact, so loth to let such good work be degraded by the title of 
"novel" that we are almost tempted to consider its claim to rank as a prose 
epic.' 

The Scotsman. 'Mr. Hall Caine has in this work placed himself 
beyond the front rank of the novelists of the day. He has produced a story 
which, for the ingenuity of its plot, for its literary excellence, for its delinea- 
tions of human passions, and for its intensely powerful dramatic scenes, is 
distinctly ahead of all the fictional literature of our time, and fit to rank with 
the most powerful fictional writing of the past century.' 

The Athenaeum. 'Crowded with incidents.' 

The Observer. 'Many of the descriptions are picturesque and power- 
ful. ... As fine in their way as anything in modern literature.' 

The Liverpool Mercury. 'A story which will be read, not by his con- 
temporaries alone, but by later generations, so long as its chief features high 
emotion, deep passion, exquisite poetry, and true pathos have power to 
delight and to touch the heart.' 

The Pall Mall Gazette. ' It is the product of a strenuous and sustained 
imaginative effort far beyond the power of any every-day story-teller.' 

The Scots Observer. ' In none of his previous works has he approached 
the splendour of idealism which flows through The Bondman.' 

The Manchester Guardian. 'A remarkable story, painted with vigour 
and brilliant effect.' 

The St James's Gazette. 'A striking and highly dramatic piece of 
fiction.' 

The Literary World. 'The book abounds in pages of great force and 
beauty, and there is a touch of almost Homeric power in its massive and 
grand simplicity,' 

The Liverpool Post 'Graphic, dramatic, pathetic, heroic, full of 
detail, crowded with incident and inspired by a noble purpose. ' 

The Yorkshire Post A book of lasting interest.' 

LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFOED STREET, W.C. 



THE SCAPEGOAT 

BY HALL CAINE 
In One Volume^ price 6s. 

Mr. Gladstone writes: 'I congratulate you upon The Scapegoat as a work 
of art, and especially upon the noble and skilfully drawn character of Israel. ' 

Mr. Walter Besant, in 'The Author.' ' Nearly every year there stands 
out a head and shoulders above its companions one work which promises to 
make the year memorable. This year a promise of lasting vitality is distinctly 
made by Mr. Hall Caine's Scapegoat. It is a great book, great in conception 
and in execution ; a strong book, strong in situation and in character ; and 
a human book, human in its pathos, its terror, and its passion.' 

The Times. 'In our judgment it excels in dramatic force all the Author's 
previous efforts. For grace and touching pathos Naomi is a character which 
any romancist in the world might be proud to have created, and the tale of 
her parents' despair and hopes, and of her own development, confers upon 
The Scapegoat a distinction which is matchless of its kind.' 

The Guardian. 'Mr. Hall Caine is undoubtedly master of a style which 
is peculiarly his own. He is in a way a Rembrandt among novelists. His 
figures, striking and powerful rather than beautiful, stand out, with the 
ruggedness of their features developed and accentuated, from a background 
of the deepest gloom. . . . Every sentence contains a thought, and every word 
of it is balanced and arranged to accumulate the intensity of its force.' 

The Athenaeum. ' It is a delightful story to read.' 

The Academy. 'Israel ben Oliel is the third of a series of the most 
profoundly conceived characters in modern fiction.' 

The Saturday Review. 'This is the best novel which Mr. Caine has 
yet produced.' 

The Literary World. 'The lifelike renderings of the varied situations, 
the gradual changes in a noble character, hardened and lowered by the 
world's cruel usage, and returning at last to its original grandeur, can only 
be fully appreciated by a perusal of the book as a whole.' 

The Anti-Jacobin. ' It is, in truth, a romance of fine poetic quality. 
Israel Ben Oliel, the central figure of the tale, is sculptured rather than drawn : 
a character of grand outline. A nobler piece of prose than the death of 
Ruth we have seldom met with.' 

The Scotsman. ' The new story will rank with Mr. Hall Caine's previous 
productions. Nay, it will in some respects rank above them. It will take 
its place by the side of the Hebrew histories in the Apocrypha. It is nobly 
and manfully written. It stirs the blood and kindles the imagination.' 

The Scottish Leader. ' The Scapegoat is a masterpiece.' 

Truth. ' Mr. Hall Caine has been winning his way slowly, but surely, 
and securely, I think also, to fame. You must by all means read his 
absorbing Moorish romance, The Scapegoat? 

The Jewish World. 'Only one who had studied Moses could have 
drawn that grand portrait of Israel ben Oliel.' 

LONDON : WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDI-ORD STREET, W.CX 



THE HEAVENLY TWINS 

BY SARAH GRAND 

In One Volume^ price 6s. 

The Athenaeum. 'It is so full of interest, and the characters are so 
eccentrically humorous yet true, that one feels inclined to pardon all its 
faults, and give oneself up to unreserved enjoyment of it. ... The twins 
Angelica and Diavolo, young barbarians, utterly devoid of all respect, con- 
ventionality, or decency, are among the most delightful and amusing children 
in fiction. ' 

The Academy. 'The adventures of Diavolo and Angelica the 
"heavenly twins" are delightfully funny. No more original children were 
ever put into a book. Their audacity, unmanageableness, and genius for 
mischief in none of which qualities, as they are here shown, is there any 
taint of vice are refreshing ; and it is impossible not to follow, with very 
keen interest, the progress of these youngsters.' 

The Daily Telegraph. ' Everybody ought to read it, for it is an inex- 
haustible source of refreshing and highly stimulating entertainment.' 

The World. 'There is much powerful and some beautiful writing in 
this strange book. ' 

The Westminster Gazette. 'Sarah Grand ... has put enough obser 
vation, humour, and thought into this book to furnish forth half-a-dozen 
ordinary novels.' 

Punch. 'The Twins themselves are a creation : the epithet "Heavenly" 
for these two mischievous little fiends is admirable.' 

The Queen, 'There is a touch of real genius in The Heavenly Twins.' 

The Guardian. ' Exceptionally brilliant in dialogue, and dealing with 
modern society life, this book has a purpose to draw out and emancipate 
women.' 

The Lady. 'Apart from its more serious interest, the book should take 
high rank on its literary merits alone. Its pages are brimful of good things, 
and more than one passage, notably the episode of "The Boy and the 
Tenor," is a poem complete in itself, and worthy of separate publication.' 

The Manchester Examiner. 'As surely as Tess of the c? Urbervillei 
swept all before it last year, so surely has Sarah Grand's Heavenly Twins 
provoked the greatest attention and comment this season. It is a most 
daringly original work. . . . Sarah Grand is a notable Woman's Righter, 
but her book is the one asked for at Mudie's, suburban, and seaside libraries, 
and discussed at every hotel table in the kingdom. The episode of the 
" Tenor and the Boy" is of rare beauty, and is singularly delicate and at the 
same time un-English in treatment.' 

The New York Critic. ' It is written in an epigrammatic style, and, 
besides its cleverness, has the great charaa of freshness, enthusiasm, and 
poetic feeling. 1 

LONDON : WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.G, 



IDEALA 

A STUDY FROM LIFE 

BY SARAH GRAND 

In One Volume^ price 6s. 



The Morning Post. 'Sarah Grand's Ideala. ... A clever book in 
itself, is especially interesting when read in the light of her later works. 
Standing alone, it is remarkable as the outcome of an earnest mind seeking 
in good faith the solution of a difficult and ever present problem. . . . Ideala 
is original and somewhat daring. . . . The story is in many ways delightful 
and thought-suggesting.' 

The Literary World. 'When Sarah Grand came before the public in 
1888 with Ideala^ she consciously and firmly laid her finger on one of the 
keynotes of the age; . . . We welcome an edition that will place this minute 
and careful study of an interesting question within reach of a wider circle of 
readers.' 

The Liverpool Mercury. 'The book is a wonderful one an evangel 
for the fair sex, and at once an inspiration and a comforting companion, to 
which thoughtful womanhood will recur again and again. ' 

The Glasgow Herald. ' Ideala has attained the honour of a fifth 
edition. . . . The stir created by The Heavenly Twins, the more recent 
work by the same authoress, Madame Sarah Grand, would justify this step. 
Ideala can, however, stand on its own merits.' 

The Yorkshire Post. 'As a psychological study the book cannot fail to 
be of interest to many readers. ' 

The Birmingham Gazette. ' Madame Sarah Grand thoroughly deserves 
her success. Ideala, the heroine, is a splendid conception, and her opinions 
are noble. . . . The book is not one to be forgotten.' 

The Woman's Herald. ' One naturally wishes to Know something of 
the woman for whose sake Lord Downe remained a bachelor. It must be 
confessed that at first Ideala is a little disappointing. She is strikingly 
original. ... As the story advances one forgets these peculiarities, and can 
tind little but sympathy and admiration for the many noble qualities of a 
very complex character.' 

The Englishman. * Madame Sarah Grand's work is far from being a 
common work. Ideala is a clever young woman of great capabilities and 
noble purposes. . . . The orginality of the book does not lie in the plot, but 
in the authoress's power to see and to describe the finer shades of a character 
which Is erratic and impetuous, but above all things truly womanly.' 

LONDON: WILLIAM" HEINEM ANN 21 BEDFORD STUKBT, W C. 



OUR MANIFOLD NATURE 

BY SARAH GRAND 

In One Volume^ price 6s. 

The Daily Telegraph. ' Six stories by the gifted writer who still chooses 
to be known to the public at large by the pseudonym of "Sarah Grand." 
In regard to them it is sufficient to say that they display all the qualities, 
stylistic, humorous, and pathetic, that have placed the author of Idcala and 
The Heavenly Twins in the very front rank of contemporary novelists.' 

The Globe. ' Brief studies of character, sympathetic, and suggesting that 
" Sarah Grand " can do something more than startle by her unconventionality 
and boldness.' 

The Ladies' Pictorial. 'If the volume does not achieve even greater 
popularity than Sarah Grand's former works, it will be a proof that fashion, 
and not intrinsic merit, has a great deal to do with the success of a book.' 

The Pall Mall Gazette. 'All are eminently entertaining.' 

The Spectator. 'Insight into, and general sympathy with widely 
differing phases of humanity, coupled with power to reproduce what is seen, 
with vivid distinct strokes, that rivet the attention, are qualifications foi 
work of the kind contained in Our Manifold Nature which Sarah Grand 
evidently possesses in a high degree. . . . All these studies, male and female 
alike, are marked by humour, pathos, fidelity to life, and power to recognise 
in human nature the frequent recurrence of some apparently incongruous 
and remote trait, which, when at last it becomes visible, helps to a com- 
prehension of what might otherwise be inexplicable.' 

The Speaker. 'In Our Manifold Nature Sarah Grand is seen at her 
best. How good that is can only be known by those who read for them- 
selves this admirable little volume. In freshness of conception and originality 
of treatment these stories are delightful, full of force and piquancy, whilst 
the studies of character are carried out with equal firmness and delicacy.' 

The Guardian. ' Our Manifold Nature is a clever book. Sarah Grand 
has the power of touching common things, which, if it fails to make them 
" rise to touch the spheres," renders them exceedingly interesting.' 

The Morning Post. 'Unstinted praise is deserved by the Irish story, 
"Boomellen," a tale remarkable both for power and pathos.' 

The Court Journal. Our Manifold Nature is simply full of good things, 
and it is essentially a book to buy as well as to read.' 

The Birmingham Gazette. ' Mrs. Grand has genuine power. She 
analyses keenly. . . . Her humour is good, and her delineation of character 
one of her strongest points. The book is one to be read, studied, and acted 
upon.' 

LONDON : WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BKDFORD STRRET, W.C. 



THE EBB-TIDE 

BY ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON 

AND 

LLOYD OSBOURNE 

In One Volume^ price 6s. 

The Times. 'This is a novel of sensation. But the episodes and 
incidents, although thrilling enough, are consistently subordinated to sensa- 
tionalism of character. . . . There is just enough of the coral reef and the 
palm groves, of cerulean sky and pellucid water, to indicate rather than to 
present the local colouring. Yet when he dashes in a sketch it is done to 
perfection. . . . We see the scene vividly unrolled before us.' 

The Daily Telegraph. 'The story is full of strong scenes, depicted 
with a somewhat lavish use of violet pigments, such as, perhaps, the stirring 
situations demand. Here and there, however, are purple patches, in which 
Mr. Stevenson shows all his cunning literary art the description of the 
coral island, for instance. . . . Some intensely graphic and dramatic pages 
delineate the struggle which causes, and a final scene . . . concludes this 
strange fragment from the wild life of the South Sea.' 

The St. James's Gazette. 'The book takes your imagination and 
attention captive from the first chapter nay, from the first paragraph and it 
does not set them free till the last word has been read.' 

The Standard. ' Mr. Stevenson gives such vitality to his characters, 
and so clear an outlook upon the strange quarter of the world to which he 
takes us, that when we reach the end of the story, we come back to civilisa- 
tion with a start of surprise, and a moment's difficulty in realising that we 
have not been actually away from it.' 

The Daily Chronicle. 'We are swept along without a pause on the 
current of the animated and vigorous narrative. Each incident and adven- 
ture is told with that incomparable keenness of vision which is Mr. Stevenson's 
greatest charm as a story-teller.' 

The Pall Mall Gazette. ' It is brilliantly invented, and it is not less 
brilliantly told. There is not a dull sentence in the whole run of it. And 
the style is fresh, alert, full of surprises in fact, is very good latter-day 
Stevenson indeed.' 

The World. ' It is amazingly clever, full of that extraordinary know- 
ledge of human nature which makes certain creations of Mr. Stevenson's pen 
far more real to us than persons we have met in the flesh. Grisly the book 
undoubtedly is, with a strength and a vigour of description hardly to be 
matched in the language. ... But it is just because the book is so extra- 
ordinarily good that it ought to be better, ought to be more of a serious whole 
than a mere brilliant display of fireworks, though each firework display has 
more genius in it than is to be found in ninety-nine out of every hundred 
books supposed to contain that rare quality.' 

The Morning Post. ' Boldly conceived, probing some of the darkest 
depths of the human soul, the tale has a vigour and breadth of touch which 
have been surpassed in none of Mr. Stevenson's previous works. . . . We 
do not, of course, know how much Mr. Osbourne has contributed to the tale, 
but there is no chapter in it which any author need be unwilling to acknow- 
ledge, or which is wanting in vivid interest.' 

LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C. 



THE MASTER 

BY I. ZANGWILL 

With a Photogravure Portrait of the Author 
In One Volume^ price 6s. 

Morning- Post ' The merits of the book are great. Its range of observa- 
tion is wide ; its sketches of character are frequently admirably drawn. . . . 
It is extremely refreshing, after a surfeit of recent fiction of the prevalent type, 
to welcome a really clever work by a writer who is certainly not hampered 
by conventional prejudice.' 

The Queen. 'It is impossible to deny the greatness of a book like The 
Master^ a veritable human document, in which the characters do exactly as 
they would in life. ... I venture to say that Matt himself is one of the most 
striking and original characters in our fiction, and I have not the least doubt 
that The Master will always be reckoned one of our classics.' 

The Daily Chronicle.' It is a powerful and masterly piece of work. . . 
Quite the best novel of the year.' 

Literary World. ' In The Master % Mr. Zangwill has eclipsed all his 
previous work. This strong and striking story of patience and passion, of 
sorrow and success, of art, ambition, and vain gauds, is genuinely powerful 
in its tragedy, and picturesque in its completeness. . . . The work, thoroughly 
wholesome in tone, is of sterling merit, and strikes a truly tragic chord, which 
leaves a deep impression upon the mind.' 

Jewish World. ' For a novel to be a work that shall live, and not merely 
please the passing taste of a section of the public, it must palpitate with the 
truth of human experience and human feeling. . . . Such a novel is The 
Master, Mr. Zangwill's latest, and assuredly one of his best works. Interest 
in the story is sustained from beginning to end. From the first page to the 
last we get a series of vivid pictures that make us feel, as well as understand, 
not only the personality and environment of his characters, but the motives 
that compel, like fate, their words and actions.' 

Leeds Mercury. ' The Master is impassioned and powerful, and, in our 
judgment, is vastly superior to Children of the Ghetto. From the first page to 
the last the book is quick with life, and not less quick surprises. . . . The 
impression which the book leaves is deep and distinct, and the power, from 
start to finish, of such a delineation of life is unmistakable.' 

Liverpool Mercury. ' The accomplished author of Children of the Ghetto 
has given us in The Master a book written with marvellous skill, and charac- 
terised by vivid imaginative power. It is not a volume to be taken up and 
despatched in a leisure evening, but one to be studied and enjoyed in many 
an hour of quiet, or to be read aloud in the family circle, when the toils of 
the day have given place to retirement and peace.' 

LONDON : WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C. 



CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO 

A Study of a Peculiar People 
BY I. ZANGWILL 

In One Volume, price 6s. 

The Times. ' From whatever point of view we regard it, it is a remark- 
able book.' 

The Athenaeum. 'The chief interest of the book lies in the wonderful 
description of the VVhitechapel Jews. The vividness and force with which 
Mr. Zangwill brings before us the strange and uncouth characters with which 
he has peopled his book are truly admirable. . . . Admirers of Mr. Zangwill's 
fecund wit will not fail to find flashes of it in these pages.' 

The Daily Chronicle. f Altogether we are not aware of any such minute, 
graphic, and seemingly faithful picture of the Israel of nineteenth century 
London. . . . The book has taken hold of us.' 

The Spectator. ' Esther Ansell, Raphael Leon, Mrs. Henry Goldsmith, 
Reb Shemuel, and the rest, are living creations.' 

The Speaker.^' A strong and remarkable book.' 

The National Observer. 'To ignore this book is not to know the East 
End Jew.' 

The Guardian. 'A novel such as only our own day could produce. A 
masterly study of a complicated psychological problem in which every factor 
is handled with such astonishing dexterity and intelligence that again and 
again we are tempted to think a really good book has come into our hands.' 

The Graphic. 'Absolutely fascinating. Teaches how closely akin are 
laughter and tears. ' 

Black and White. 'A moving panorama of Jewish life, full of truth, full 
of sympathy, vivid in the setting forth, and occasionally most brilliant. Such 
a book as this has the germs of a dozen novels. A book to read, to keep, to 
ponder over, to remember.' 

W. Archer in 'The World.' 'The most powerful and fascinating book 
I have read for many a long day.' 

Land and Water. 'The most wonderful multi-coloured and brilliant 
description. Dickens has never drawn characters of more abiding indi- 
viduality. An exceeding beautiful chapter is the honeymoon of the Hyams. 
Charles Kingsley in one of his books makes for something of the same sort. 
But his idea is not half so tender and faithful, nor his handling anything like 
so delicate and natural.' 

Andrew Lang in 'Longman's Magazine.' 'Almost every kind of 
reader will find Children of the Ghetto interesting.' 

T. P. O'Connor in 'The Weekly Sun.' 'Apart altogether from its 
great artistic merits, from its clear portraits, its subtle and skilful analysis of 
character, its pathos and its humour, this book has, in my mind, an immense 
interest as a record of a generation that has passed and of struggles that are 
yet going on.' 

The Manchester Guardian. 'The best Jewish novel ever written.' 

LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C. 

A 2 



THE KING OF SCHNORRERS 

Grotesques and Fantasies 
BY I. ZANGWILL 

With over Ninety Illustrations by PHIL MAY and Others 
In One. Volume^ price 6s. 

The Athenaeum. 'Several of Mr. Zangwill's contemporary Ghetto char- 
acters have already become almost classical ; but in The King of Schnorrers 
he goes back to the Jewish community of the eighteenth century for the 
hero of his principal story ; and he is indeed a stupendous hero . . . anyhow, 
he is well named the king of beggars. The illustrations, by Phil May, add 
greatly to the attraction of the book. ' 

The Saturday Review. 'Mr. Zangwill has created a new figure in 
fiction, and a new type of humour. The entire series of adventures is a 
triumphant progress. . . . Humour of a rich and active character pervades 
the delightful history of Manasses. Mr. Zangwill's book is altogether very 
good reading. It is also very cleverly illustrated by Phil May and other 
artists.' 

The Literary World. 'Of Mr. Zangwill's versatility there is ample 
proof in this new volume of stories. . . . More noticeable and welcome to 
us, as well as more characteristic of the author, are the fresh additions he has 
made to his long series of studies of Jewish life.' 

The St. James's Gazette. ' The King of Schnorrers is a very fascinating 
story. Mr. Zangwill returns to the Ghetto, and gives us a quaint old-world 
picture as a most appropriate setting for his picturesque hero, the beggar- 
king. . . . Good as the story of the arch-schnorrer is, there is perhaps an 
even better "Yiddish" tale in this book. This is "Flutter-Duck." . . . 
Let us call attention to the excellence, as mere realistic vivid description, of 
the picture of the room and atmosphere and conditions in which Flutter-Duck 
and her circle dwelt ; there is something of Dickens in this. ' 

The Daily Telegraph.' The King of Schnorrers, like Children of the 
Ghetto, depicts the habits and characteristics of Israel in London with pains- 
taking elaborateness and apparent verisimilitude. The King of Schnorrers is 
a character-sketch which deals with the manners and customs of native and 
foreign Jews as they " lived and had their being" in the London of a century 
and a quarter ago.' 

The Daily Chronicle. ' It is a beautiful story. The King of Schnorrers 
is that great rarity an entirely new thing, that is as good as it is new.' 

The Glasgow Herald. 'On the whole, the book does justice to Mr. 
Zangwill's rapidly-growing reputation, and the character of Manasseh ought 
to live.' 

The World. ' The exuberant and even occasionally overpowering 
humour of Mr. Zangwill is at his highest mark in his new volume, Tht 
King of Schnorrtrs ' 

LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C. 



THE PREMIER AND THE PAINTER 

BY I. ZANGWILL AND LOUIS COWEN 
In One Volume^ price 6s. 

The Cambridge (University) Review. 'That the book will have 
readers in a future generation we do not doubt, for there is much in it that is 
of lasting merit. ' 

The Graphic. * It might be worth the while of some industrious and 
capable person with plenty of leisure to reproduce in a volume of reasonable 
size the epigrams and other good things witty and serious which The Premier 
and the Painter contains. There are plenty of them, and many are worth 
noting and remembering.' 

St. James's Gazette. ' The satire hits all round with much impartiality ; 
while one striking situation succeeds another till the reader is altogether 
dazzled. The story is full of life and "go" and brightness, and will well 
repay perusal.' 

The Athenaeum. 'In spite of its close print and its five hundred pages 
The Premier and tht Painter is not very difficult to read. To speak of it, 
however, is difficult. It is the sort of book that demands yet defies quotation 
for one thing ; and for another it is the sort of book the description of which 
as " very clever " is at once inevitable and inadequate. In some ways it is 
original enough to be a law unto itself, and withal as attractive in its- 
whimsical, wrong-headed way, as at times it is tantalising, bewildering, even 
tedious. The theme is politics and politicians, and the treatment, while for 
the most part satirical and prosaic, is often touched with sentiment, and 
sometimes even with a fantastic kind of poetry. The several episodes of the 
story are wildly fanciful in themselves and are clumsily connected ; but the 
streak of humorous cynicism which shows through all of them is both curious 
and pleasing. Again, it has to be claimed for the author that as is shown 
to admiration by his presentation of the excellent Mrs. Dawe and her cook- 
shop he is capable, when he pleases, of insight and observation of a high 
order, and therewith of a masterly sobriety of tone. But he cannot be 
depended upon for the length of a single page ; he seeks his effects and his 
material when and where he pleases. In some respects his method is not, 
perhaps, altogether unlike Lord Beaconsfield's. To our thinking, however, 
he is strong enough to go alone, and to go far.' 

The World. 'Undeniably clever, though with a somewhat mixed and 
eccentric cleverness.' 

The Morning Post 'The story is described as a "fantastic romance," 
and, indeed, fantasy reigns supreme from the first to the last of its pages. It 
relates the history of our time with humour and well-aimed sarcasm. All the 
most prominent characters of the day, whether political or otherwise, come in 
for notice. The identity of the leading politicians is but thinly veiled, while 
many celebrities appear in propria persona. Both the "Premier" and 
"Painter" now and again find themselves in the most critical situations. 
Certainly this is not a story that he who runs may read, but it is cleverly 
original, and often lightened by bright flashes of wit.' 

LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C. 



THE COUNTESS RADNA 

BY W. E. NORRIS 

In One Volume^ price 6.f. 

The Times. ' He is a remarkably even writer. And this novel is almost 
as good a medium as any other for studying the delicacy and dexterity of 
his workmanship.' 

The National Observer. 'Interesting and well written, as all Mr. 
Norris's stories are.' 

The Morning Post. 'The fidelity of his portraiture is remarkable, and 
it has rarely appeared to so much advantage as in this brilliant novel.' 

The Saturday Review. ' The Countess Radna, which its author not 
unjustly describes as " an unpretending tale," avoids, by the grace of its style 
and the pleasant accuracy of its characterisation, any suspicion of boredom.' 

The Daily News. ' The Countess Radna contains many of the qualities 
that make a story by this writer welcome to the critic. It is caustic in style, 
the character drawing is clear, the talk natural ; the pages are strewn with 
good things worth quoting.' 

The Speaker. 'In style, skill in construction, and general "go," it is 
worth a dozen ordinary novels.' 

The Academy. 'As a whole, the book is decidedly well written, while 
it is undeniably interesting. It is bright and wholesome : the work in fact 
of a gentleman and a man who knows the world about which he writes.' 

Black and White. 'The novel, like all Mr. Norris's work is an ex- 
cessively clever piece of work, and the author never for a moment allows his 
grasp of his plot and his characters to slacken.' 

The Gentlewoman. 'Mr. Norris is a practised hand at his craft. He 
can write bright dialogue and clear English, too. 

The Literary World. 'His last novel, The Countess Radna, is an ex- 
cellent sample of his style. The plot is simple enough. But the story 
holds the attention and insists upon being read ; and it is scarcely possible 
to say anything more favourable of a work of fiction.' 

The Scotsman. 'The story, in which there is more than a spice of 
modern life romance, is an excellent study of the problem of mixed marriage. 
The book is one of good healthy reading, and reveals a fine broad view of life 
and human nature.' 

The Glasgow Herald. 'This is an unusually fresh and well-written 
story. The tone is thoroughly healthy ; and Mr. Norris, without being in 
the least old-fashioned, manages to get along without the aid of pessimism, 
psychology, naturalism, or what is known as frank treatment of the relations 
between the sexes.' 

The Westminster Gazette. 'Mr. Norris writes throughout with much 
liveliness and force, saying now and then something that is worth remember- 
ing. And he sketches his minor characters with a firm touch.' 

LONDON : WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C. 



A VICTIM OF GOOD LUCK 

BY W. E. NORRIS 
In One Volume^ price 6s. 

The Speaker. * A Victim of Good Luck is one of those breezy stories of 
his in which the reader finds himself moving in good society, among men 
or women who are neither better nor worse than average humanity, but who 
always show good manners and good breeding. . . . Suffice it to say that the 
story is as readable as any we have yet had from the same pen.' 

The Daily Telegraph.'^ Victim of Good Luck is one of the brightest 
novels of the year, which cannot but enhance its gifted author's well-deserved 
fame and popularity.' 

The World. ' Here is Mr. Norris in his best form again, giving us an 
impossible story with such imperturbable composure, such quiet humour, 
easy polish, and irresistible persuasiveness, that he makes us read A Victim 
of Good Luck right through with eager interest and unflagging amusement 
without being aware, until we regretfully reach the end, that it is just a 
farcical comedy in two delightful volumes.' 

The Daily Chronicle. 'It has not a dull page from first to last. Any 
one with normal health and taste can read a book like this with real pleasure.' 

The Globe. 'Mr. W. E. Norris is a writer who always keeps us on 
good terms with ourselves. We can pick up or lay down his books at will, 
but they are so pleasant in style and equable in tone that we do not usually 
lay them down till we have mastered them ; A Victim of Good Luck is a 
more agreeable novel than most of this author's.' 

The Westminster Gazette. ' A Victim of Good Luck is in Mr. Norris's 
best vein, which means that it is urbane, delicate, lively, and flavoured 
with a high quality of refined humour. Altogether a most refreshing book, 
and we take it as a pleasant reminder that Mr. Norris is still very near 
his highwater mark. ' 

The Spectator. ' Mr. Norris displays to the full his general command of 
narrative expedients which are at once happily invented and yet quite natural 
which seem to belong to their place in the book, just as a keystone belongs 
to its place in the arch. . . . The brightest and cleverest book which Mr. 
Norris has given us since he wrote The Rogue.' 

The Saturday Review. 'Novels which are neither dull, unwholesome, 
morbid, nor disagreeable, are so rare in these days, that A Victim of Good 
Luck . . . ought to find a place in a book-box filled for the most part with 
light literature. . . . We think it will increase the reputation of an already 
very popular author.' 

The Scotsman. ' A Victim of Good Luck, like others of this author's 
books, depends little on incident and much on the conception and drawing of 
character, on clever yet natural conversation, and on the working out, with 
masterly ease, of a novel problem of right and inclination. ' 

LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C. 



THE POTTER'S THUMB 

BY FLORA ANNIE STEEL 
In One Volume , price 6s. 

The Pall Mall Budget ' For this week the only novel worth mentioning 
is Mrs. Steel's The Potter's Thumb. Her admirable From the Five Rivers, 
since it dealt with native Indian life, was naturally compared with Mr. 
Kipling's stories. In The Potter's Thumb the charm which came from the 
freshness of them still remains. Almost every character is convincing, and 
some of them excellent to a degree. ' 

The Globe. 'This is a brilliant story a story that fascinates, tingling 
with life, steeped in sympathy with all that is best and saddest.' 

The Manchester Guardian. ' The impression left upon one after reading 
The Potter's Thumb is that a new literary artist, of very great and unusual 
gifts, has arisen. ... In short, Mrs. Steel must be congratulated upon having 
achieved a very genuine and amply deserved success.' 

The Glasgow Herald. 'A clever story which, in many respects, brings 
India very near to its readers. The novel is certainly one interesting alike to 
the Anglo-Indian and to those untra veiled travellers who make their only 
voyages in novelists' romantic company.' 

The Scotsman. ' It is a capital story, full of variety and movement, which 
brings with great vividness before the reader one of the phases of Anglo- 
Indian life. Mrs. Steel writes forcibly and sympathetically, and much of the 
charm of the picture which she draws lies in the force with which she brings 
out the contrast between the Asiatic and European world. The Potter's 
Thumb is very good reading, with its mingling of the tragedy and comedy 
of life. Its evil woman par excellence ... is a finished study.' 

The Westminster Gazette. 'A very powerful and tragic story. Mrs. 
Steel gives us again, but with greater elaboration than before, one of those 
strong, vivid, and subtle pictures of Indian life which we have learnt to expect 
from her. To a reader who has not been in India her books seem to get 
deeper below the native crust, and to have more of the instinct for the Oriental 
than almost anything that has been written in this time.' 

The Leeds Mercury. ' The Potter's Thumb is a powerful story of the 
mystical kind, and one which makes an instant appeal to the imagination of 
the reader. . . . There is an intensity of vision in this story which is as re- 
markable as it is rare, and the book, in its vivid and fascinating revelations of 
life, and some of its limitations, is at once brilliant and, in the deepest and 
therefore least demonstrative sense, impassioned.' 

The National Observer. 'A romance of East and West, in which the 
glamour, intrigue, and superstition of India are cunningly interwoven and 
artfully contrasted with the bright and changeable aspects of modern European 
society. " Love stories," as Mr. Andrew Lang once observed, "are best done 
by women" ; and Mrs. Steel's treatment of Rose Tweedie's love affair with 
Lewis Gordon is a brilliant instance in point. So sane and delightful an 
episode is rare in fiction now-a-days.' 

LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN, ai BRDPORD STREET, W.C. 



FROM THE FIVE RIVERS 

BY FLORA ANNIE STEEL 
In One Volume^ price 6s. 

The Times. 'Time was when these sketches of native Punjabi society 
would have been considered a curiosity in literature. They are sufficiently 
remarkable, even in these days, when interest in the "dumb millions" of 
India is thoroughly alive, and writers, great and small, vie in ministering to it. 
They are the more notable as being the work of a woman. Mrs. Steel has 
evidently been brought into close contact with the domestic life of all classes, 
Hindu and Mahomedan, in city and village, and has steeped herself in their 
customs and superstitions. . . . Mrs. Steel's book is of exceptional merit 
and freshness.' 

Vanity Fair. ' Stories of the Punjaub evidently the work of one who 
has an intimate knowledge of, and a kindly sympathy for, its people. It is 
to be hoped that this is not the last book of Indian stories that Mrs. Steel 
will give us. ' 

The Spectator. 'Merit, graphic force, and excellent local colouring are 
conspicuous in Mrs. Steel's From the Five Rivers, and the short stories of which 
the volume is composed are evidently the work of a lady who knows what 
she is writing about.' 

The Glasgow Herald. ' This is a collection of sketches of Hindu life, full 
for the most part of brilliant colouring and cleverly wrought in dialect. The 
writer evidently knows her subject, and she writes about it with unusual 
skill.' 

The North British Daily Mail. 'In at least two of the sketches in Mrs. 
Steel's book we have a thoroughly descriptive delineation of life in Indian, or 
rather, Hindoo, villages. " Ganesh Chunel " is little short of a masterpiece, 
and the same might be said of " Shah Sujah's Mouse." In both we are made 
the spectator of the conditions of existence in rural India. The stories are 
told with an art that conceals the art of story-telling.' 

The Athenaeum. 'They possess this great merit, that they reflect the 
habits, modes of life, and ideas of the middle and lower classes of the popula- 
tion of Northern India better than do systematic and more pretentious works.' 

The Leeds Mercury. ' By no means a book to neglect. . . . It is written 
with brains. . . . Mrs. Steel understands the life which she describes, and she 
has sufficient literary art to describe it uncommonly well. These short 
stories of Indian life are, in fact, quite above the average of stories long or 
short. . . . There is originality, insight, sympathy, and a certain dramatic 
instinct in the portrayal of character about the book.' 

The Globe. ' She puts before us the natives of our Empire in the East as 
they live and move and speak, with their pitiful superstitions, their strange 
fancies, their melancholy ignorance of what poses with us for knowledge and 
civilisation, their doubt of the new ways, the new laws, the new people. 
" Shah Sujah's Mouse," the gem of the collection a touching tale of 
unreasoning fidelity torrards an English " Sinny Baba" is a tiny bit of 
perfect writing.' 

LONDON WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BBDFORD STREET, W.C 



THE LAST SENTENCE 

BY MAXWELL GRAY 

Author of ' The Silence of Dean Maitland,' etc. 

In One Volume^ price 6s. 

The Standard . ' The Last Sentence is a remarkable story ; it abounds 
with dramatic situations, the interest never for a moment flags, and the 
characters are well drawn and consistent.' 

The Saturday Review. ' There is a great deal as well as a great variety 
of incident in the story, and more than twenty years are apportioned to it ; but 
it never seems over-crowded, nor has it the appearance of several stories rolled 
into one. The Last Sentence is a remarkable novel, and the more so because 
its strong situations are produced without recourse to the grosser forms of 
immorality. ' 

The Daily Telegraph. 'One of the most powerful and adroitly- worked- 
out plots embodied in any modern work of fiction runs through The Last 
Sentence. . . . This terrible tale of retribution is told with well -sustained force 
and picturesqueness, and abounds in light as well as shade.' 

The Morning Post. 'Maxwell Gray has the advantage of manner that is 
both cultured and picturesque, and while avoiding even the appearance of the 
melodramatic, makes coming events cast a shadow before them so as to excite 
and entertain expectation. ... It required the imagination of an artist to 
select the kind of Nemesis which finally overtakes this successful evil-doer, and 
which affords an affecting climax to a rather fascinating tale. ' 

The Glasgow Herald. ' This is a very strong story. ... It contains much 
rich colouring, some striking situations, and plenty of thoroughly living 
characters. The interest is of a varied kind, and, though the hero is an 
aristocrat, the pictures of human life are by no means confined to the upper 
circles.' 

The Leeds Mercury. 'It shows a command of the resources of the 
novelist's art which is by no means common, and it has other qualities which 
lift it far above the average level of the circulating library. It is written with 
a literary grace and a moral insight which are seldom at fault, and from first 
to last it is pervaded with deep human interest. ' 

The Queen. 'Maxwell Gray has a certain charm and delicacy of style. 
She has mastered the subtleties of a particular type of weak character until 
she may be almost called its prophet.' 

The Lady's Pictorial. 'The book is a clever and powerful one. . . . 
Cynthia Marlowe will live in our memories as a sweet and noble woman ; one 
of whom it is a pleasure to think of beside some of the 'emancipated ' heroines 
so common in the fiction of the day.' 

The Manchester Courier. ' The author of The Silence of Dean Maitland 
gives to the reading world another sound and magnificent work. ... In both 
these works Maxwell Gray has taken " Nemesis " as his grand motif. In each 
work there sits behind the hero that atra cura which poisons the wholesome 
draught of human joy. In each is present the corroding blight that comes 
of evil done and not discovered. ' 

LONDON : WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C. 



THE NAULAHKA 

A Tale of West and East 

BY RUDYARD KIPLING AND WOLCOTT BALESTIER 
In One Volume, price 6s. 

The Athenaeum. 'There is no one but Mr. Kipling who can make his 
readers taste and smell, as well as see and hear, the East ; and in this book 
(if we except the description of Tarvin's adventures in the deserted city of 
Gunvaur, which is perhaps less clear-cut than usual) he has surely surpassed 
himself. In his faculty for getting inside the Eastern mind and showing its 
queer workings Mr. Kipling stands alone.' 

The Academy. ' The Naulahka contains passages of great merit. 
There are descriptions scattered through its pages which no one but Mr. 
Kipling could have written. . . Whoever reads this novel will find much of 
it hard to forget . . . and the story of the exodus from the hospital will rank 
among the best passages in modern fiction.' 

The Times. 'A happy idea, well adapted to utilize the respective ex- 
perience of the joint authors. . . . An excellent story. . . . The dramatic train 
of incident, the climax of which is certainly the interview between Sitabhai 
and Tarvin, the alternate crudeness and ferocity of the girl-queen, the 
susceptibility of the full-blooded American, hardly kept in subjection by his 
alertness and keen eye to business, the anxious eunuch waiting in the distance 
with the horses, and fretting as the stars grow paler and paler, the cough of 
the tiger slinking home at the dawn after a fruitless night's hunt the whole 
forms a scene not easily effaced from the memory.' 

The Glasgow Herald. 'An entrancing story beyond doubt. . . . The 
design is admirable to bring into violent contrast and opposition the widely 
differing forces of the Old World and the New and while, of course, it 
could have been done without the use of Americanese, yet that gives a 
wonderful freshness and realism to the story. The design is a bold one, and 
it has been boldly carried out. . . . The interest is not only sustained through- 
out, it is at times breathless. . . . The Maharajah, the rival queens, the 
pomp and peril of Rhatore, are clearly Mr. Kipling's own, and some of the 
Indian chapters are in his best style.' 

The Speaker. ' In the presentation of Rhatore there is something of the 
old Kiplingesque glamour ; it is to the pages of Mr. Kipling that one must 
go for the strange people and incidents of the royal household at Rhatore. 
.... It is enough to say that the plotting of that most beautiful and most 
wicked gipsy, Sitabhai is interesting ; that Sitabhai is well created ; and that 
the chapter which describes her secret meeting with Tarvin is probably the 
finest and the most impressive in the book.' 

The Bookman. ' The real interest of the book is in the life behind the 
curtains of the Maharajah's palace. The child Kunwar, his mother, the 
forsaken Zulu queen, the gipsy with her wicked arts, are pictures of Indiar 
life, which even Mi. Kipling has not surpassed.' 

LONDON : WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C. 



CORRUPTION 

BY PERCY WHITE 
In One Volume^ price 6s. 

The Speaker. ' In his first book, Mr. Bailey -Martin, Mr. White gave 
us a remarkable picture of the sordidness of life in a suburban household. In 
the present volume he rises to a higher social level, and treats of rising members 
of Parliament, of political leaders, and even of Prime Ministers. ... The 
sketches of types are both forcible and true.' 

The Pall Mall Gazette. 'None can travel over his brightly-written 
pages without being gladdened by the little flashes of epigram which light up 
the scene for us, or stirred by the shrewdness and worldly wisdom which he 
has put into the mouths of his characters. One of the charms of the book 
lies in the conviction that its author knows the world, and is full of a broad, 
full knowledge, and therefore sympathy with the foibles, passions, and sins 
with which it abounds. ... It is a sermon preached on the old ^Eschylian 
text, that the evil doer must always suffer. The book is a drama of biting 
intensity, a tragedy of inflexible purpose and relentless result.' 

The Daily News. ' Will appeal to many tastes. There is intrigue 
enough in it for those who love a story of the ordinary kind, and the political 
part is perhaps rather more attractive in its sparkle and variety of incident 
than the real thing itself.' 

The Daily Telegraph. * Corruption more than fulfils the brilliant pro- 
mise of Mr. Bailey -Martin. ... As its title indicates, it deals with the political 
and social cankers of the day, which it lays bare with a fearless and unerring 
touch.' 

The Standard. 'The scenes in the South of France are particularly well 
done ; without any attempt at local colour Mr. White has caught the atmos- 
phere skilfully, and there are one or two clever touches of which he appears 
unconscious. Taking the book as a whole, it is written with ease and know- 
ledge, and has about it nothing of the amateur.' 

The Graphic. ' A very able piece of work.' 

Black and White. 'The risque* situation is wrought with brilliance and 
subtilty. . . . Mrs. Mannering recalls Becky Sharp ; and Carew is a typical 
man of the day. . . . Mr. Percy White assuredly takes rank with the foremost 
of the society writers.' 

The Globe. 'A graphic picture of social life.' 

The Glasgow Herald. ' The characters are well conceived and cleverly 
portrayed ; the dialogue is crisp and sparkling. There is not a dull moment 
in the volume.' 

LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C. 



MR. BAILEY-MARTIN 

BY PERCY WHITE 

With a Photogravure Portrait of the Author 
In One Volume^ price 6s. 

The Times. ' Mr. White has written an audacious book.' 

The Athenaeum. ' Mr. White, with the aid of the necessary qualitie 
dry humour and delicate irony succeeds nearly all the time. . . . The char- 
acter is one exceedingly difficult to portray. . . . Mr. White has resisted the 
temptation to force and exaggerate the note, and this is probably the secret of 
his success.' 

The Speaker. 'There is cleverness enough in Mr. Bailey-Martin to 
furnish forth a dozen novels. ... It shows not only a remarkable knowledge 
of contemporary life, but a keen insight into character, and a considerable 
degree of literary power.' 

The Daily Telegraph. * The book teems with smart sayings and graphic 
characterisations, and cannot fail to make a mark among the cleverest novels 
of the year.' 

The Daily Chronicle. ' The book must be pronounced a well-nigh un- 
qualified triumph.' 

The Literary World. ' Mr. Bailey-Martin is one of those books whose 
opportune arrival serves to reconcile the critic to his task. . . . Bright, fresh, 
vigorous in action, and told with a wealth of incident and humour.' 

The New Budget, in a criticism on Mr. Percy White as a novelist t says: 
' In my opinion, you are by far the cleverest of the younger or shall I say, 
youngest ? generation of writers, with the exception, perhaps, of Mr. Street 
. . . Your prose possesses in a high degree what I may call the lyrical note. 
At times you write like a poet rather than a writer of prose. . . . You serve 
in no school, and imitate no man. ... In Mr. Bailey- Martin^ though you 
write with an affectation of wholly dispassionate observation of your snob and 
his set, there is underlying that attitude a measureless contempt for your hero 
(if I may call him so) and his friends, which bites like an acid.' 

The National Observer. ' Admirably clever, and deserving to be read by 
those who are bored with the average novel.' 

The Bookman. ' One of the cleverest novels we have seen for many a 
day. . . . Take away from the average man a little of his affectation, and all 
his responsibilities ; add some impudence, and the production of a Bailey- 
Martin is highly probable. We congratulate Mr. White on the vigour and 
vitality of his novel.' 

The Scotsman. ' When it is remembered that this story is told by Mr. 
Bailey-Martin himself, and with a great air of verisimilitude, it will be seen 
how able the book is as a piece of literature. ... It will interest and enter- 
tain every one who takes it up.' 

LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C. 



TERMINATIONS 

BY HENRY JAMES 
In One Volume^ price 6s. 

The Times. ' All the stories are told by a man whose heart and soul are 
in his profession of literature.' 

The Morning 1 Post. 'The discriminating will not fail to recognise in 
the tales composing this volume workmanship of a very high order and a 
wealth of imaginative fancy that is, in a measure, a revelation.' 

The Athenaeum. * The appearance of Terminations will in no way shake 
the general belief in Mr. Henry James's accomplished touch and command of 
material. On the contrary, it confirms conclusions long since foregone, and 
will increase the respect of his readers. . . . With such passages of trenchant 
wit and sparkling observation, surely in his best manner, Mr. James ought to 
be as satisfied as his readers cannot fail to be.' 

The Daily News. 'Mr. James is a critic of life rather than a maker of 
stories ; his appeal is more to the intellect than to the imagination. Termina- 
tions is a collection of four stories written with that choiceness and conciseness 
of phrase that distinguishes the work of the literary artist. . . . The Altar of 
the Dead is more mystic and imaginative. Mr. James finds phrases that 
express incomparably well the more spiritual longings of our nature, and this 
story is full of tender suggestiveness.' 

The Pall Mall Gazette.' What strikes one, in fact, in every corner of 
Mr. James's work is his inordinate cleverness. These four tales are so clever, 
that one can only raise one's hands in admiration. The insight, the sympathy 
with character, the extraordinary observation, and the neat and dexterous 
phrasing these qualities are everywhere visible.' 

The Scotsman. 'All the stories are peculiar and full of a rare interest.' 

The Manchester Guardian.' ... But with The Altar of the Dead 
it is far otherwise. To attempt to criticise a creation so exquisite, so instinct 
with the finest and purest human feeling, so penetrated with the fastidious 
distinction of a sensitive spirit, would indeed be superfluous, if not impertinent 
On its own lines, we know of no more beautiful, truer prose poem in the 
English language, and to have written it is to have formulated a claim to 
recollection which we do not think will be lightly set aside.' 

LONDON : WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C. 



HERBERT VANLENNERT 

BY C. F. KEARY 
In One Volume^ price 6s. 

The National Observer. ' Clever characterisation, natural dialogue, 
moral sanity, and keen observation and knowledge of the world. . . . The 
minor characters are as diverse as they are numerous, and there is not a lay 
figure in the book.' 

The Daily News. 'Herbert Vanlennert is good throughout. The 
analysis of the hero's character is excellent. The story is crowded with minor 
characters, all clearly individualised and seen in nice relation to their sur- 
roundings. There is much power of observation, much knowledge of life and 
art displayed throughout.' 

The Pall Mall Gazette.' A piece of life and a work of art. . . . Mr. 
Keary's men and women are solid all through. He is as honest in his presen- 
tation of life as Mr. Gissing, but he is more pointed and wittier ; he is less 
witty than Mr. Meredith, but he is more responsible. . . . Mr. Keary's work 
stands out as a very brilliant piece of honest, knowledgable, wise artistry. We 
say it deliberately, that there are very few novels of our time that bear so 
unmistakably the grip of the master-hand as Herbert Vanlennert.' 

The St. James's Gazette. ' A novel like this helps us at once to under- 
stand, to judge, and to enjoy life ; and that is to say that he has written a 
novel of the kind that only the great novelists write. From time to time there 
comes a new novel marked by a kind and degree of excellence that compels 
praise of an emphatic kind. There need be no hesitation about deciding that 
Herbert Vanlennert is such a book. 1 

The Review of Reviews. ' In Herbert Vanlennert indeed is a whole 
little world of living people friends and acquaintances whom it is not easy to 
forget.' 

The Sketch. ' Full of cleverness and a legitimate realism. Of two of the 
most strongly marked and skilfully drawn characters, one is Maynard, the 
artist of genius ; the other, a striking contrast to Maynard, is Bernard, who 
passes a serene existence in the study of metaphysics. Very charming and 
interesting are Mr. Keary's bright and vivid descriptions of English country 
life and scenery in Derbyshire.' 

St. Paul's. 'The book contains much clever writing, and is in many 
respects a strong one.' 

Black and White. 'There is abundance of skilfully drawn characters 
and brilliantly sketched incidents, which, once read, cannot be forgotten.' 

The Scotsman. ' Mr. Keary, even when he is treading on delicate 
ground, writes with circumspection and cleverness.' 

The Bradford Observer. ' It is a fine piece of art, and should touch its 
readers to fine issues.' 

The Manchester Courier. 'The book is most interesting, and embodies 
a great deal of careful work, besides some very plain speaking.' 

LONDON : WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C. 



THE YEARS THAT THE LOCUST 
HATH EATEN 

BY ANNIE E. HOLDSWORTH 

In One Volume^ price 6s. 

The Literary World. 'The novel is marked by great strength, which 
is always under subjection to the author's gift of restraint, so that we are made 
to feel the intensity all the more. Pathos and humour (in the true sense) go 
together through these chapters ; and for such qualities as earnestness, insight, 
moral courage, and thoughtfulness, The Years that the Locust hath Eaten 
stands out prominently among noteworthy books of the time. ' 

The Daily News. ' Bears out to the full the promise given by Joanna 
Traill, Spinster. The author has a genuine sense of humour and an eye for 
character, and if she bids us weep at the tragedy of life and death, she makes 
us smile by her pleasant handling of human foible and eccentricities.' 

The Standard. 'A worthy successor to Joanna Traill, Spinster. It is 
quite as powerful. It has insight and sympathy and pathos, humour, and 
some shrewd understanding of human nature scattered up and down its pages. 
Moreover, there is beauty in the story and idealism. . . . Told with a humour, 
a grace, a simplicity, that ought to give the story a long reign. . . . The 
charm of the book is undeniable ; it is one that only a clever woman, full of 
the best instincts of her sex, could have written.' 

The Review of Reviews.' It has all the charm and simplicity of treat- 
ment which gave its predecessor (Joanna Traill, Spinster} its vogue.' 

The Pall Mall Gazette. ' The book should not be missed by a fastidious 
novel -reader.' 

The Court Journal. 'The moral of the book is excellent; the style 
strong and bold. 

The Scotsman. 'The story is well told, and a vein of humour serves to 
bring the pathos into higher relief.' 

The Manchester Guardian. ' It is sincere and conscientious, and it 
shows appreciation of the value of reticence.' 

The Manchester Courier. 'The book is full of delicate touches of 
characterisation, and is written with considerable sense of style.' 

The Glasgow Herald. 'Worked out with great skill and success. . . . 
The story is powerfully told.' 

The Liverpool Mercury. 'The story is told with sympathy and pathos, 
and the concluding chapters are touching in the extreme.' 

The Birmingham Gazette. 'A sad story beautifully written, containing 
pure thoughts and abundant food for reflection upon the misery which exists in 
the world at the present day. The tale is particularly pathetic, but it is true 
in character. It will be read with interest.' 

The Leeds Mercury. ' Full of powerful situations.' 
LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C 



IN HASTE AND AT LEISURE 

BY E. LYNN LINTON 

In One Volume, price 6s. 

The Speaker. ' Mrs. Lynn Linton commands the respect of her readers 
and critics. Her new story, In Haste and at Leisure, is as powerful a piece 
of writing as any that we owe to her pen.' 

The St. James's Budget. 'A thorough mistress of English, Mrs. Lynn 
Linton uses the weapons of knowledge and ridicule, of sarcasm and logic, with 
powerful effect ; the shallow pretences of the " New Woman " are ruthlessly 
torn aside.' 

The Literary World. ' Whatever its exaggerations may be, In Haste and 
at Leisure remains a notable achievement. It has given us pleasure, and we 
can recommend it with confidence.' 

The Court Journal. 'The book is a long but brilliant homily and series 
of object-lessons against the folly and immorality of the modern craze of the 
most advanced women, who rail against men, marriage, and maternity. The 
book is immensely powerful, and intensely interesting.' 

The Daily Graphic. ' It is an interesting story, while it is the most 
tremendous all-round cannonade to which the fair emancipated have been 
subjected.' 

The World. ' It is clever, and well written.' 

The Graphic. ' It is thoroughly interesting, and it is full of passages that 
almost irresistibly tempt quotation.' 

The St. James's Gazette.' It is a novel that ought to be, and will be, 
widely read and enjoyed.' 

The Globe. ' It is impossible not to recognise and acknowledge its great 
literary merit.' 

The Glasgow Herald. '/ Haste and at Leisure is a striking and even 
brilliant novel.' 

The Manchester Courier. 'In this cruelly scientific analyses of the 
" New Woman," Mrs. Lynn Linton writes with all the bitterness of Dean 
Swift. The book is one of remarkable power.' 

LONDON : WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C. 



CHIMERA 

BY F. MABEL ROBINSON 
In One Volume, price 6s. 

The Saturday Review. ' Every page of it is worth reading. The author 
sets herself to write a fascinating book, and, in our opinion, has undoubtedly 
succeeded. ' 

The World. 'There are good things in this novel; excellent character- 
drawing, some forcibly realistic chapters in the life of a common soldier.' 

The Daily News. 'The story is skilfully constructed, and will certainly 
add to Miss Robinson's reputation.' 

The Daily Chronicle.' Miss Robinson writes but little, and writes that 
little carefully. . . . Herein also is Miss Robinson true to life, and not false 
to art.' 

The Realm. 'The story is powerfully written. It is worth reading.' 

The Standard. 'All the vicissitudes of Treganna's career are interesting, 
and are vividly told.' 

The Lady. 'A story of exceptional power and absorbing interest, earnest, 
forcible, intensely human, and of high literary merit.' 

The Observer. ' The book is very ably written, and it is well worth 
reading. ' 

The Globe. ' There are in this book much power of observation, a relent 
less truthfulness, and a recognition of the value of detail. It should enchain 
the attention of the most callous reader.' 

The Sunday Times. ' A remarkably clever sketch of a man's life and 
character. . . . The literary workmanship is good without being laboured. 
. . . We wish it the appreciation, not only of those who can distinguish good 
literature, but of those who prefer the good from the bad.' 

Black and White. 'An original plot vigorously treated.' 

The Daily Graphic, ' The whole story of the relations between Joseph 
Trcganna and Fanny Star is very human, and handled with a breadth and 
understanding which very few women novelists of the day could hope to rival, 
while the gradual abandonment by the man of the outposts whereon he has 
planted his colours is admirable in its inevitableness.' 

Woman. 'A superb novel, strong and full of life, packed with observation 
and humour of the deep subcutaneous sort.' 

LONDON : WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C. 



THE STORY OF 

A MODERN WOMAN 

BY ELLA HEPWORTH DIXON 
In One Volume^ price 6s. 

The Times. ' Miss Dixon shows herself no ineffective satirist of the shams 
and snobbishness of society.' 

The Academy. ' No one who reads The Story of a Modern Woman will 
be likely to gainsay the excellence of its writing, and the genuine talent shown 
by Miss Dixon.' 

The Pall Mall Gazette. ' A subtle study, written by a woman, about a 
woman, and from the point of view of a distinctly clever and modern woman 
herself. . . . Miss Dixon has scored a great success in the treatment of her 
novel.' 

Vanity Fair. ' The main thread of the story is powerful and pathetic; but 
there are lighter touches, wit and humour, and here and there what seem like 
shadows of people we have seen and known. ... In a word, a book to buy, 
to read, and to enjoy.' 

Black and White.' The social sketches, with which this little story of 
modern, literary, fashionable, and Bohemian London is full, are very cleverly 
touched in.' 

The Graphic. ' Miss Ella Hepworth Dixon has inherited no small share 
of her father's literary gifts, and she adds to it a faculty of observation, and a 
constructive and narrative skill, which are of considerable promise.' 

The National Observer. ' She writes well, and shows not a little power 
of drawing character, and even of constructing a story.' 

The Sketch. ' Miss Dixon's style excels in delicate vignettes, full of 
suggestion, and marked, above all, by that artistic restraint which is such an 
agreeable contrast to the fluency of the average woman-novel. ' 

St. James's Gazette. ' Miss Hepworth Dixon knows how to write. . . . 
She can say what she wants to say in a sound, clear style, which (especially 
in the descriptive passages) is occasionally very felicitous and expressive. 
Altogether, A Modern Woman is a work which will better repay reading than 
most of the novels of the season.' 

Illustrated London News. 'A story of which so much can truthfully be 
said is a contribution to art as well as to the circulating library, a conjunction 
which, in these days of British fiction, is surprising.' 

LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C. 



A SELF-DENYING ORDINANCE 

BY M. HAMILTON 
In One Volume^ price 6s. 

The Athenaeum. 'The characters are exceptionally distinct, the move- 
ment is brisk, and the dialogue is natural and convincing.' 

The Pall Mall Gazette. 'Joanna Conway is on distinctly new lines, 
and it has given us pleasure to follow her spicy, attractive personality through 
all the phases of her carefully, finely-depicted evolution.' 

The National Observer. 'A remarkably life-like picture of English 
society. The author is a keen observer. The writing is above the average.' 

The Daily Chronicle. ' An excellent novel. Joanna Conway is one of 
the most attractive figures in recent fiction. It is no small tribute to the 
author's skill that this simple country girl, without beauty or accomplishments, 
is from first to last so winning a personality. The book is full of excellent 
observation.' 

Black and White. ' Some pleasant hours may be passed in following the 
fortunes of Joanna, the charming heroine of M.IIamilton's A Self-Denying 
Ordinance. The book is well written, and holds the attention from start to 
finish. The characters are true to life.' 

The Methodist Times. ' The story retains its interest throughout. It 
contains some vividly-drawn delineations of character.' 

Woman. 'Contains the finest, surest, subtlest character drawing that 
England has had from a new writer for years and years past.' 

Public Opinion. 'A well written and fascinating novel. It is a clever 
sketch of life in its different phases. . . . "Every personage strikes one as 
being richly endowed with individuality." ' 

The Manchester Courier. ' A decided success. There are such women 
as Joanna Conway in the world, though, unfortunately, not so many as are 
required ; but there are few writers of the present day who can do justice to 
such a character, so poetical, and yet so practical. . . . There is humour in 
the book : the scene is chiefly in Ireland, and who can truly write of Ireland 
without humour ? but the greatest charm is in the wonderful tenderness, in 
the womanly chivalry which renders so true the title of a self-denying 
ordinance. 

LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C. 



ELDER CONKLIN 

BY FRANK HARRIS 
In One Volume, price 6s. 

The Times. 'Ably conceived, and ably-written stories. . . . Mr. Frank 
Harris has proved himself at once a subtle and effective writer of fiction.' 

The National Observer. ' Mr. Harris's work leaves on the mind a vivid 
impression. All the stories in the volume are well written and admirably 
constructed.' 

The Academy. ' Page after page glows with masterly invention, tender 
pathos, excellent wit : attributes belonging to the magicians of fiction. . Its 
cleverness is often near akin to absolute genius ; the dexterity of the writer 
evokes not only surprises, but rare pleasure.' 

The Pall Mall Gazette. * The characters are clearly defined and com- 
bined with great skill ; they breathe genuineness and truth. There is force 
and pathos, too, in the story of Bancroft and Loo Conklin.' 

The Review of Reviews. 'There is a force and a charm, a vividness 
and an originality about these tales which give them a high, if not the highest, 
place in the literature of that kind which has been produced in the last few 
years. Not only is there a genius in the presentation of the human types 
which are described, but they display a closeness of observation and a keenness 
of insight into the heart of things which only those who have studied western 
civilisation in the making can appreciate.' 

The Westminster Gazette . ' The stories are masterpieces. They grip 
like life. And they live with one after, as living realities.' 

The Sketch. ' There is good workmanship in Mr. Harris's volume, shown 
not merely in the vigorous story-telling. The inner idea in the tales is carefully 
wrought, and it will find a response among all readers who love sincerity.' 

The Bookman. 'Elder Conklin is a masterly picture of heroism and 
paternal love, of rare intensity and refinement, co-existing with capacities for 
hideous selfishness and cruelty.' 

The Glasgow Herald. 'Mr. Harris's excellent stories may be heartily 
recommended to all.' 

LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STRERT, W.C. 



AT THE GATE OF SAMARIA 

BY W. J. LOCKE 
In One Volume^ price 6s. 

The Times. ' In a sense this novel is belated, being a straggler from the 
procession of books more or less directly concerned with the New Woman. 
This is a pity, for it is perhaps the best of the novels that have vindicated or 
mocked at that tiresome female. . . . Still it may be allowed that here we 
meet with less cant, less rancour, less prurience, less affectation of omniscience, 
more genuine philosophy, and a more careful style and more real literary 
power than in any other novel of the same school.' 

The Athenaeum. ' The character-drawing is distinctly good. All the 
personages stand out well defined with strongly marked individualities.' 

The Morning Post. ' Clytie is made undeniably sympathetic, while the 
author's pictures of Bohemian life are bright and graphic.' 

The Pall Mall Gazette.' The merit of the book lies in the description 
of the life of Clytie Davenant (the heroine) as an artist in London, of her 
friendship with Kent, her wooing by Thornton Hammerdyke, and the struggles 
of her married life. All this is portrayed, not in the grand style, but soberly, 
truthfully, and on the whole effectively.' 

The Daily Chronicle. 'This clever and somewhat audacious story. . . . 
We congratulate W. J. Locke, and shall be surprised if the reception accorded 
to his book is not such as to cause him to congratulate himself.' 

The Review of Reviews. ' Here is a tale of women's life in London in the 
present year, of varied societies, of a husband's brutality, and of a woman's 
fidelity, told with restraint, power, and originality. It is certainly one of the 
novels which mark a beginner out for attention.' 

Vanity Fair. 'After a long course of flaccid, nerveless books that seem 
to have no raisori d'ttrc, it is refreshing to find a well-written novel whose 
characters seem "hewn from life," and act as men and women really act.' 

The Scotsman. 'The story never drags, and can be read from end to 
end. It seems to be a first work, and in its strength and vigour gives good 
promise for the future. The workmanship is careful and conscientious, while 
the characterisation is broad, human, and natural' 

The Manchester Guardian. ' In depicting the friendship between 
Clytie and Kent the author shows both power and subtlety, and may fairly 
claim to have given us something new, for the portrayal of such a relationship 
between a man and a woman standing on an equal intellectual level has not 
been successfully attempted before.' 

LONDON : WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C. 



AN IMAGINATIVE MAN 

BY ROBERT HICHENS 
AUTHOR OF "THE GREEN CARNATION" 

In One Volume^ price 6s. 

The Saturday Review. ' The powerfully dramatic scene in the dancing- 
rooms at Cairo would alone make the book worth reading. The humour, too, 
peculiar to himself is n )t lacking in Mr. Hichens's novel. It is undoubtedly 
an artistic success. ' 

The Guardian.' There is no possible doubt as to the cleverness of the 
book. The scenes are exceeding powerful.' 

The Graphic. ' The story embodies a study of remarkable subtlety and 
power, and the style is not only vivid and picturesque, but in those passages 
of mixed emotion and reflection, which strike what is, perhaps, the charac- 
teristic note of late nineteenth century prose literature, is touched with some- 
thing of a poetic charm.' 

The Standard. ' The setting of the book is vivid, and the effect of silence 
well imagined, so that the strange little drama goes on, and the reader watches 
it with an interest that does not suffer him to consider its absurdity.' 

The Daily Chronicle. ' It treats an original idea with no little skill, and 
it is written with a distinction which gives Mr. Hichens a conspicuous place 
amongst the younger story-tellers who are really studious of English diction. 
... It is marked out with an imaginative resource which has a welcome note 
of literature.' 

The Daily Graphic. ' A profoundly impressive study in psychology. 
The descriptions of the shadier side of Egyptian life are fresh and vivid ; 
indeed, Mr. Hichens has a rare power of stimulating the reader's imagination 
until it fills in what no one can write, and thus helps to create a vivid picture.' 

The Scotsman. ' It is no doubt a remarkable book. If it has almost 
none of the humour of its predecessor (The Green Carnation), it is written 
with the same brilliancy of style, and the same skill is shown in the drawing 
of accessories. Mr. Hichens's three characters never fail to be interesting. 
They are presented with very considerable power, while the background of 
Egyptian life and scenery is drawn with a sure hand.' 

LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C. 



A DRAMA IN DUTCH 

BY 'Z Z' 

In One Volume, price 6s. 

The Spectator. ' Several of his types are painted in with a fine combina- 
tion of breadth of effect and wealth of significant detail. . . . Certainly a book 
which has not merely cleverness, but real vitality.' 

The Speaker. ' A novel of such remarkable merit, and written with such 
easy mastery of style. From first to last this striking and powerful story 
maintains a high level of excellence, betokening no 'prentice hand. It is a 
story teeming with humour and pathos, instinct with the irony of human fate, 
and quick to apprehend the subtle twists and inconsistencies of human 
character. Above all, it is deliciously original . . . and told with great spirit, 
humour, and dramatic vigour. A vivid picture of a side of life upon which 
little light has been cast by our novelists since Dickens laid down his pen.' 

The Morning Post 'On the whole realistic; this presentment of 
Holland in London has certain impressionist touches that are decidedly 
effective. . . . All the tragedy of the book centres in the figure of Peter van 
Eijk, a creation which says much for the author's imaginative powers.' 

The Daily Telegraph. ' A singular little novel, which has so undeniable 
a power of its own.' (Mr. W. L. COURTNEY.) 

The Globe. 'The literary treatment is fresh and impressive. . . . The 
author shows skill in all its characterisations, his mastery of Dutch idiosyncrasy 
being obviously complete.' 

The Daily Chronicle. ' One does not care to put the book down till the 
last page is turned.' 

The Westminster Gazette. ' Vivid in portraiture, vivacious in manner. 
. . . The combination of close observation and grim sardonic humour gives 
the book a decided charm. . . . The pathetic figure of Peter is drawn with a 
tenderness which indefinitely enlarges our impression of the author's dramatic 
possibilities.' 

The Weekly Sun. 'Has the great merit of introducing us to a new 
world. . . . What a delightful creation Mrs. de Griendt is. Indeed, I should 
personally have been glad if we had had more of her. Whenever she appears 
on the stage she fills it with her presence, and you can see her, hear her, watch 
her with fascination and incessant interest. ... I think the reader will agree 
with me that I have not exaggerated the literary merit of this exquisitely- 
described scene.' (T. P. O'CONNOR, M.P.) 

The Review of Reviews. 'You will enjoy reading it.' 

The Glasgow Herald. 'A striking and amusing novel. . . . The author 
has a pleasant gift of humour, and has shown distinct originality.' 

The Aberdeen Daily Free Press. 'In the publication of this and 
kindred works, Mr. Heinemann is doing much to maintain the freshness and 
vigour of our English fiction. . . . He has seldom provided a pleasanter and 
yet more bracing work than the Drama now before us. ... As a mere story 
it will carry delight to even the most unthinking.' 

LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C. 



MISS GRACE OF ALL SOULS' 

BY W. E. TIREBUCK 

In One Volume^ price 6s. 

The Times. ' Since Mrs. Gaskell wrote her Mary Barton we have seen 
no more interesting novel on the condition of the working classes. Mr. 
Tirebuck is thoroughly master of his subject. ... A vivid and impressive 
narrative of the great coal strike of a couple of years ago.' 

The Literary World. ' Every reader anxious to hear of a work that is full 
of brains and vigour may unhesitatingly enter Miss Grace of All Souls' upon 
his list of books worthy to be perused. . . . Mr. Tirebuck, not content with 
providing " Grace" for our admiration, has made another claim upon our love 
oy presenting us to Nance Ockleshaw. For her sake alone Miss Grace of All 
Souls' should be read, and we hope that the novel will make its way into many 
a home, there to be considered with all the care that is due to it.' 

The World. ' The most remarkable contribution made by fiction to the 
history of the working classes since Mary Barton, and it has a wider range 
and import of deeper gravity. It appeals directly to the thoughtful among 
readers, those who care to learn, on the object-lesson plan, the facts and 
aspects of life among the multitudes, with whom they are brought into actual 
contact. The girl who is its central figure is an original and very attractive 
character.' 

The Daily Chronicle. 'An uncommonly well- told story, interesting from 
first to last. Mr. Tirebuck has drawn a truly delightful character in the 
miner's wife ; indeed, the whole family might well have been sketched straight 
from the life. It is difficult to make a work of fiction at once instructive and 
entertaining, but Mr. Tirebuck has done it in Miss Grace of All Souls'. 1 

The Pall Mall Gazette. 'An admirable piece of work. Here is realism 
in its proper proportions : the rude, harsh, Methody life of the northern miner 
engraved in all its essentials. Mr. Tirebuck manages to illustrate the con- 
ditions of miners' lives for us with complete fidelity. Not a touch of the 
humour, the pathos, the tragedy, the grime, the sin, and the ideals is lacking. 
. . . Mr. Tirebuck has done his work to perfection. The story is not a moral 
tract, but a work of art of great significance.' 

The British Weekly. ' Mr. Tirebuck is a practised and powerful novelist, 
and in this story he has taken us right inside the heart of the poor. His 
description of the collier's wife is wonderful work.' 

The Manchester Guardian. ' As a picture of working men and women, 
instinct as it is with knowledge, sympathy, passion, and conviction, we have 
seldom, if ever, read anything so good.' 

The Manchester Courier. 'The character of Miss Grace reminds the 
reader of the heroine of Charles Kingsley's Westward Ho.' 

LONDON : WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C. 



OUT OF DUE SEASON 

BY ADELINE SERGEANT 
In One Volume, price 6s. 

The Athenaeum. 'Told with a force and directness that hold the reader's 
attention throughout. ... A stirring and interesting novel.' 

The Academy. ' As a study of character, the work is admirable.' 

The Saturday Review. 'A finely conceived study. The book is true 
without being sordid realistic in the better meaning of the word ; and we 
have read it with the greatest interest and some stirrings of emotion. 1 

The National Observer. 'The strong and true spirit of the husband 
gives an ennobling study of humanity worth many plots. Miss Sergeant has 
risen to her earlier level in this book, a fine study of character, and it is only 
just to say that it is also strong in detail.' 

The World. 'A work to which the much-used adjective "beautiful" 
may be applied with full intention and strict justice.' 

The Daily Chronicle. ' Miss Sergeant has given her best matter, treated 
in her best manner.' 

The Daily News. ' A moving story. In the delineation of the softening 
of the man's spirit, and of the mental struggles by which he reaches to for- 
giveness of his wife, Miss Sergeant shows a fine imagination. This is the best 
book of Miss Sergeant's that has come under our notice for some time.' 

The Globe. ' Miss Sergeant follows her hero with a rare grasp of descrip- 
tive detail. The concluding chapters of the book reach a high level of pathos, 
dignity, and convincing humanity.' 

Black and White. ' Gideon Blake is a fine creation ; and the record of 
his devotion to the unworthy Emmy, and his attempted expiation of her sins, 
is forcibly wrought. The closing tragedy, simply treated, is impressive.' 

The Literary World. ' The story is well put together, and has points of 
more than passing interest and importance.' 

The Scotsman. ' It is in the development of the great theme of a man's 
undying constancy to his erring partner, and his eventual forgiveness of her 
offence, that the author rises to a height of true dramatic power seldom attained 
in the modern novel. On its merits the story is worthy of a high place in 
contemporary fiction.' 

Birmingham Daily Post 'The character of Gideon Blake, the intense 
and strong-minded husband of the fragile Emmy, is a fine creation, based on 
the harder types of moral grandeur.' 

Bradford Observer. ' The tale is sincerely and touchingly written. Its 
characters are veritable flesh and blood.' 

LONDON : WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C. 



'I